Dozens of party-bus operators ticketed in crackdown after city rules tightened

SHARE Dozens of party-bus operators ticketed in crackdown after city rules tightened
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Chicago Police investigate a December 2016 shooting on a party bus in the 500 block of West Irving Park Road. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

With New Year’s Eve revelers getting ready to celebrate, city officials are urging people to ask questions to ensure the “party bus” they book is licensed and legal.

“Otherwise you and your friends could literally be left out in the cold,” said Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the city department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Some party buses have been linked to crime and nuisance complaints.

The city is going “to focus on, if you’ll pardon the expression, the drivers of violent crimes in the city,” said Cmdr. Marc Buslik of the 19th police district in Wrigleyville, where he and Escareno spoke at a news conference this week.

Since tougher city rules took effect in June, renegade bus operators — many based in the suburbs — have been issued 28 orders to stop operating. Only 10 of the 28 have taken steps to comply with the law, according to Buslik and Escareno. And there have been 11 arrests for illegal weapons and drugs.

Chicago Police Cmdr. Marc Buslik (left) and Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the city department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, at a news conference Wednesday to discuss ongoing enforcement of tougher city rules governing party buses. | Mauree

Chicago Police Cmdr. Marc Buslik (left) and Rosa Escareno, commissioner of the city department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, at a news conference Wednesday to discuss ongoing enforcement of tougher city rules governing party buses. | Maureen O’Donnell/Sun-Times

“Just think about that,” Escareno said. “These buses have been rolling through the street with illegal guns, drugs.”

Police also have issued 125 tickets, mostly for license violations. In some cases, companies were cited for false claims after undercover investigators tried to book suburban buses that weren’t entitled to do business in Chicago.

But other than asking lots of questions, it’s difficult for consumers to find a central place to find up-to-date licensing information because some companies get a license for only a portion of their fleet, or don’t bother with one at all, officials said.

That’s why city officials are working to get state oversight and a central registry, Escareno said.

Over the last two years or so, at least 10 shootings and one homicide have taken place on party buses, according to police.

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who championed the new regulations, has previously decried some party buses as “potential rolling cemeteries where armed, sometimes fatal violence can break out at a moment’s notice thanks to the potent mix of guns and alcohol.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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