Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images (Creative Commons).
There is no speed limit on Chicagos expressways simply because they are ruled by armed gang bangers and the Illinois State Police is afraid to confront them because they deal in hot lead.
12-Sep-21 It was a beautiful, warm May 27 night, perfect to be a spectator at the over-60 16-inch softball league under the lights at the community park in northwest suburban Elk Grove Village.
Keith Dickens, age 67, one of this writers softball buddies a future Hall-of-Fame player who once starred on the Vintage Risk softball team got three hits and his team won big.
After the game, two other Vintage Risk old-timers, John Clausen, 77, and Dean Karouzos, 74, masked up and joined me at the nearby Coachs Corner saloon for pizza and a few libations to celebrate the victory.
Passing through a Park Safety Zone near Merrimac Park at 6226 West Irving Park Road at 9:54 p.m. on the way back to Chicagos Old Town neighborhood, this senior citizen driver was corralled by Mayor Lori Lightfoots Automated Speed Enforcement network.
On July 18, a $35 speeding ticket for going a mere six miles per hour over the 30 mph limit arrived in the mail. The ticket, supported by three dark and out-of-focus speed camera photos, issued the following terse announcement:
These recorded images are evidence of a violation of a speed restriction. The vehicle identified above bears a license plate registered or leased in your name. You must pay or contest by August 15, 2021.
(Left) Notice of an Automated Speed Enforcement Violation. (Click on image to view larger version.)
An automated money grab?
In the first two months of Mayor Lightfoots automated money grab, some 162 speed cameras, including 69 in safety zones within an eighth of a mile of a Chicago school or park, issued 322,447 of the $35 tickets, which will bring in $11.3 million to city coffers if the violators pay all the fines, according to a published report.
Thats nearly a whopping 17-fold increase over tickets issued in those same months in 2019, when the city was issuing $35 citations for going 10 mph over the limit and 19,480 such tickets were issued.
Drivers caught on camera at higher speeds received $100 tickets.
(Right) Red Light Camera along Michigan Avenue near Ontario Street.
If the mayor keeps issuing speed camera tickets at the same rate, up to 1.6 million citations will be issued in 2021, pumping $56.4 million into city coffers. That dough will fill a nice hole in the citys $733 million budget shortfall.
On the positive side, the money may eventually benefit thousands of tax-weary Chicago homeowners who expect to be slapped with huge real estate tax increases next summer.
Mayor Rahm Emanual created the speed camera program in 2013, after the Illinois Legislature gave him power to install up to 300 of them. However, Emanual ordered the city to set the cameras to cite cars speeding 10 mph over the limit, not 6 mph.
Senior citizens on a fixed income and young people who are scratching to pay apartment rents say the mayor is trying to balance her budget on the backs of struggling Chicagoans.
Speed enforcement not as strict on Dan Ryan Speedway
While the City of Chicago is cracking down on otherwise law-abiding drivers who happen to go 6 mph over the speed limit trying to get home from work or wheeling to a family picnic, apparently the Illinois State Police is ignoring drivers on the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways who exceed the 55 mph speed limit by more than 50 mph.
Based on the $35 fine for speeding 6 mph over the limit, 50 mph over the limit should net these speeders a fine of $300 not to mention the fines for reckless driving.
While returning from out of town this spring around 8:00 p.m., this writer witnessed speeding on the Dan Ryan resembling the Indianapolis 500. Dozens of souped-up muscle cars with tinted windows were drag racing at 80 to 100-plus miles per hour, while normal drivers barely were doing 50 mph and nervously clutching their steering wheels with white knuckles.
Apparently, the Illinois State Police is so under-manned they cant deal with the rogue gang-banger speeders. Assuming there are a cluster of five gang-banger cars each occupied by four gang members speeding at 100 mph, it would take a posse of five police cars occupied by two officers each thats ten cops to pull over and stop the reckless offenders.
Fact: There have been 159 expressway shootings in the first eight months of 2021, more than double the same period in 2019.
(Left) Dan Ryan Expressway (Creative Commons).
Finally, the State of Illinois recently allocated $12.5 million for installation of 300 high-resolution speed cameras on expressways across Chicago and Cook County to provide crystal clear license plate photos. The camera installation started in late August.
Two problems with this unfocused plan. The $12.5 million budget is a drop in the bucket to stop rampant speeding and gun play. And most of the speeding shooters are driving stolen cars, so what crimes are we solving?
Apparently, theres a new sheriff in town: the gangs.