The City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) today announced the results of their increased enforcement actions against businesses who contribute to the city’s crime problems. The joint enforcement teams targeted problem businesses that are associated with a disproportionately high percentage of illegal activity.
“Communities deserve responsible businesses in their neighborhoods. They are the reason city enforcement has been on a tear for the past several weeks and we are not about to let up,” said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareno. “These recent citations are an example of how we will continue to target and shut down bad operators and keep residents, especially children, safe in their own neighborhoods.”
Enforcement actions that target problem businesses through planned missions are essential, as they may pose criminal issues beyond violations in their licensing. Recent enforcement actions have cracked down on four illegal party buses operating without a license and/or security guard, six unlicensed or uninsured valet operators and eight stores selling unstamped cigarettes, “loosies,” the street-name for illegally sold individual cigarettes, or drug paraphernalia.
"Illegal party buses and those who operate without the proper security practices in place pose a public safety threat to their customers and the surrounding community," said CPD First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro. "A number of crimes, some of which have been violent, can be linked to these illegal businesses and that is why this partnership between CPD and BACP is so important. By taking the illegal players off the streets and enforcing the security measures of legal operators, we are taking yet another step to make our communities safer."
Party Bus Enforcement
A new ordinance passed by the City Council in April cracks down on illegal party buses that operate in the city and increases safety requirements for licensed bus operators. The toughened ordinance requires that a licensed security guard be onboard all trips involving 15 or more passengers, serving alcohol or making stops where alcohol is consumed; that a cease and desist applies across the entire fleet, not just the cited vehicle; and that a bus owner take affirmative steps to ensure that no passenger is illegally carrying a firearm or drugs.
Over the past week, cease and desist notices were issued to:
In addition, 20 citations were issued for violations including no Charter Bus License, no License Emblem displayed, no current tax registration, no security guard and no security cameras.
Party buses operating illegally will be subject to the maximum fines and impoundment of the vehicle.
Minimum fines are $1,000 for a first time violation and increase to $5,000 for subsequent violations. Ignoring a cease and desist order carries a $10,000 fine. Since this enforcement action took place, Flash Limos has renewed their license and is now compliant.
Illegal Valet Operators
BACP investigators also targeted 18 valet operator locations in the central business district and West Loop. The Department issued a total of 35 citations, including for issues related to no license, no insurance, no placards, illegally parked, no insignia, no receipts, no loading zone, no time stamp device, no official sign and interference. The Department found seven valets operating out of compliance, including three who did not have a current valet operator’s license or insurance.
“Even the fancy restaurants sometimes have fly-by-night valets,” said BACP Assistant Commissioner Sherri Cianciarulo, “Our enforcement efforts protect consumers and drivers and keep them from handing over their keys to the wrong people.”
The three unlicensed valets, operated by LAZ parking, were issued cease and desist orders. Following the enforcement action, all three locations are now properly licensed and in compliance. The valets were servicing the Viceroy Hotel (1118 N. State), Comfort Suites Hotel (320 N. Michigan) and Cambria Hotel & Suites (32 West Randolph).
The locations were chosen at random by BACP investigators who would identify themselves as BACP investigators, then choose car keys at random and ask attendants to show them where the cars were parked. In some cases, cars were next to fire hydrants or in no parking zones. In addition, because many customers did not receive a time-stamped receipt they would not have proof to fight the ticket or tow.
“A lot of consumer protection is written into the valet ordinance. You just handed over the second most expensive thing you own and you don’t have the receipt for proof,” said Cianciarulo. “Now the consumer is on the hook if something happens.”
Unstamped Cigarettes and “Loosies”
In February 2016, Mayor Emanuel created a Tobacco Team of six investigators in order to crack down on stores selling unstamped and untaxed cigarettes, some of them as “loosies,” or single cigarettes. In the past 18 months, BACP investigators and CPD Vice officers have jointly confiscated 30,000 packs of unstamped cigarettes and assorted contraband, such as counterfeit CD’s.
“We want to shut down bad operators in every part of the city before these businesses become hotspots for criminal behavior,” said Commissioner Escareno.
This past weekend, investigators targeted 11 locations with the following results:
A team made up of investigators from BACP and CPD Vice found unstamped cigarettes stashed in a secret wall compartment at the Food Mart at 400 E. 61st St - King Drive., where 50 packs were confiscated.
At 824 E. 79th St., the investigator slid signage at the top of a juice cooler to reveal 16 packs unstamped cigarettes, which were confiscated along with a stash of loose cigarettes hidden in the cash register.
Several stores were cited for having drug paraphernalia on premises and for selling liquor without a package goods license. Also, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol was recovered along with live ammo and a 12-round magazine at One Way Tobacco & Cellular, 3965 W. Irving Park Rd.