Police outline crackdown on motorcycle clubs ‘wreaking havoc’ on Chicago streets

Helicopters, license plate recognition cameras, noise monitors and task forces that ‘swarm’ rally points are tools Chicago police vowed use against motorcycle clubs that try to ‘goad’ police into chasing them.

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Lake Shore Drive

Chicago Police are vowing to crack down on motorcycle gangs who like to race on some streets, including South Lake Shore Drive, and try to goad police into giving chase.

Sun-Times file

The Chicago Police Department vowed Thursday to “swarm” motorcycle rally points — and use helicopters, license plate recognition cameras and noise monitors to be installed on Lake Shore Drive — to stop motorcycle clubs from continuing to wreak “life threatening” havoc.

Sean Loughran, commander of the special functions division for the CPD’s Bureau of Patrol, said the drag-racing “subculture” of motorcyclists ignores traffic laws and endangers motorists on Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Lower Wacker and in the South Loop.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) agreed.

“This is not just a group of 10 guys on motorcycles,” Dowell said. “We’re talking about hundreds of them at one time, at all times of day and night, playing loud music and endangering pedestrians.”

Loughran accused the “niche subset” of motorcycle riders of trying to “goad law enforcement into chases.” He said they do it by using social media to disseminate “glamorizing” videos of their dangerous activities.

But Loughran said Chicago police officers won’t take the bait. Pursuits are not only ineffective and dangerous. They “may exacerbate the crowd,” he said.

“The worst bad actors — they’re not stopping. … They’re trying to get us to chase them …That motorcycle becomes a 500-mile-per hour missile that will cause certainly death or great bodily harm,” Loughran told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

“I don’t want to see somebody get hurt. … If we are gonna continue that pursuit, we’re gonna back off and call for the helicopter and ask the helicopter to try and follow them from the air.”

The police department’s primary strategy is using a “task force approach” to “swarm” motorcycle clubs and have a helicopter overhead at rallying points, where sometimes 300 bikers gather at one time.

“We want to flood that area and get them while they’re off their bikes, while they’re revving their bikes. ... We have a hand-held decibel reader. We can document ….the amount of sound being generated…That’s a pretty heavy fine. The idea behind it is to make it so painful,” it becomes a deterrent, he said.

“Then, we will advertise that enforcement action through that [motorcycle club] network and say, ‘We issued this many citations and levied this many fines against people. You don’t want to do this. We want you guys to not cause havoc.’ ”

Rich Guidice, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the city has 189 license plate recognition cameras used primarily to combat gangs and terrorism.

Seventeen are located on Lake Shore Drive, where six noise monitors will soon be installed.

Another 18 have been installed on Lower Wacker Drive at the urging of Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who has used $500,000 of his aldermanic menu money.

The city is “looking to expand” that network in areas where motorcycle clubs congregate. They include, Roosevelt Road, 57th Street, Lower Wacker, Columbus Drive and on Lake Shore Drive all the way north to Sheridan Road.

“Your concerns are our concerns. The city, OEMC and the Chicago Police Department are committed to getting this right. We have set a goal internally for spring and summer to get this addressed,” Guidice said. “It’s a priority for us.”

Thursday’s hearing was held at Dowell’s behest. She said her constituents are fed up with motorcycle clubs barreling down South Side streets like Roosevelt Road at speeds approaching 100 mph, blaring music and knocking people down. She demanded to know what was being done about it.

Dowell said the hearing “accomplished what I wanted to accomplish”: to make the problem a priority.

“I’m glad to hear that you are putting some things in place. A task force. Potential missions. License plate recognition cameras. Potential use of a helicopter. Noise monitors. Missions at the rallying point. And that you’re gonna look into some legislation and ways that we can maybe support your efforts,” Dowell said.

“I’m pleased with the outcome of this hearing today. We look to see what the results are at the end of the summer.”

Reilly urged police to “lean heavily” on the hefty fines — as high as $10,000 for each offense — that he pushed through last summer to wave the black flag at daredevil motorists who use Lower Wacker as a track for their “Fast & Furious” style drag racing and spin contests.

“That gets attention real quick,” Reilly said.

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