Housing Policies Can't Erode Civil Liberties

Article excerpt

Chicago officials seem to think the poor should give up many fundamental rights, in the name of public safety, as a condition for living in public housing. At the moment, the tenants are being subjected to numerous extraordinary police measures that the Chicago Housing Authority sees as necessary to address drugs, crime and violence in public housing.

The measures include warrantless searches and the threat of evictions of parents of truant children. Such policies have gained credence over the years. The Bush administration and now the Clinton administration have pointed to Chicago's policies as examples of those that other cities might want to follow. Those approaches are summed up in the philosophy of the authority's chairman, Vincent Lane. He says public housing sites should be regarded as war zones in which extraordinary police measures must be used to restore order.

During warrantless searches of more than 1,000 public housing units last summer, police confiscated 15 weapons. Mr. Lane defended the raids, noting that they were in response to shots fired at public housing workers. …

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