8 Apr 94.
Many tenants want to give police the right to search apartments without a warrant to get rid of the guns that make life in the projects so terrifying.
``You're weighing your life against your rights,'' said one Robert Taylor tenant who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
On Thursday, however, U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen ruled that police can't search the projects without a warrant. People in public housing do not lose their constitutional protection against unreasonable searches, he said.
And while people are free to let police search their homes if they want, they cannot waive the constitutional rights of their neighbors, Andersen said in refusing to lift a ban on police sweeps that he imposed last month.
``The erosion of the rights of people on the other side of town will ultimately undermine the rights of each of us,'' he said.
Lula Ford, principal of Beethoven Elementary School in the heart of the Robert Taylor complex, said she was ``incensed'' by the decision, adding that she is certain gang violence will erupt anew.
``The judge has decided to disregard this community and the children in it,'' Ford said.
Chronic violence last summer prompted the Chicago Housing Authority to ask police to conduct random, door-to-door gun searches without warrants in public housing complexes. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the estimated 150,000 public housing tenants, and Andersen put a stop to the sweeps.
Gang warfare last month at Robert Taylor brought new urgency to the debate. In a five-day period, police received more than 300 reports of gunfire in the 28-building, 12,320-tenant complex that spreads over more than a dozen city blocks. One person was killed and six were wounded.
One tenant, Tammera Evans, said she has had to dodge bullets just to buy groceries. When she calls police to report shots, they tell her to stay away from the windows, which can be difficult in a one-bedroom apartment, she pointed out.
``Mothers put kids in their bathtubs in fear of their lives,'' CHA chairman Vincent Lane said before Thursday's hearing.
Lane was agitated as he left the courtroom after Andersen's ruling.
``My job is to protect the life and limbs of residents of public housing,'' he said. ``I'm not going to look for the ACLU to ask for their permission.''
Shortly after the ruling, President Clinton announced he has ordered Attorney General Janet Reno and Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros to develop a search policy for public housing that is both constitutional and effective.
``We must not allow criminals to find shelter in the public housing community they terrorize,'' Clinton said.
ACLU attorney Harvey Grossman praised Andersen's ruling. He argued that because public housing tenants are poor, authorities want to take unconstitutional shortcuts to deal with violence in the projects.
``You would not see weapons searches of apartments on Lake Shore Drive,'' one of Chicago's most affluent areas, Grossman said. ``The problem here is the inability to provide everyday law enforcement.''
``I don't care what they (ACLU) say,'' tenant Ron Newman said. ``I think sweeps are a good idea. I should feel free to come and go into my home without being afraid.''
But another tenant, Louis McCray, said: ``I'm not violating any law and I have nothing to hide, but police should have warrants before they come into your house.''
June 1993, Vol. 15, No. 6
Survival Line, page 8
Detroit Mayor Coleman Young said in a February 16th., 1993 interview in *USA Today* that he supports a plan to seal off entire neighborhoods with barriers in order to conduct massive gun searches.
Mayor Young said "drastic action" was needed because children were being killed by "people riding around in cars carrying guns. If we could cordon off an area and search everybody in that area for guns, we should." Young went on to say that, " I've been talking to various police officers and lawyers, trying to find some legal way of doing this. It's difficult...but we need to do it."