It appears that Chicago has emerged wiped crime, the bad economy and the educational crisis. Even a district attorney who seems to spend much of her time stripping rights from citizens as opposed to locking up criminals appears to has appeared as a danger. The only issue left it appears for Ald. James Cappelman (46th) (my old ward in Chicago) is to criminalize feeding pigeons. That’s right, Cappelman wants to make feeding the bird a crime — joining a national movement toward the criminalization of annoying or commonplace acts that I have previously criticized in columns (here and here) and numerous blogs on the criminalization of using artificial turf to growing vegetable gardens to eating french fries in the subway. Politicians like Cappelman are turning America into a nation of felons as everyday acts are regulated through the criminal code.
Cappelman has introduced an ordinance that would make feeding pigeons a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. That’s right six months in jail. He told colleagues that he was simply tired of seeing all of the pigeons when he walks to Wilson station in Chicago. I know that station since it is near my family home. It is a typical CTA station with birds that nest in the steel superstructure. It has always had lots of birds and, yes, bird droppings.
Notably, it is already a violation of the city code to feed pigeons with a potential fine of $500. That is what makes Cappelman the poster boy for the criminalization movement. He wants to move the offense from a heavy fine to an actual criminal act to express his personal distaste for a common act.
Cappelman appears obsessed with those who feed birds. In May he claimed that he was assaulted when he started sweeping away breadcrumbs left by a woman for the birds. He regularly sends out staff, he says, to sweep up the crumbs.
First, I am not sure how an alderman can order an office worker to go sweep city streets. Second, I am not sure how even the city ordinance can be enforced if it is meant to focus on pigeons as opposed to other birds. I found one section that focused on pigeons, though it does not expressly cover feeding of pigeons:
7-12-387 Restrictions on pigeons.
(a) For purposes of this section only the following definition applies:
“Pigeon” means any live bird of the Family Columbidae.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, own, keep or otherwise possess any live pigeon within any area designated as a residence district under the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. Nothing in this subsection prohibits any person from transporting a live pigeon through a residential district, if the pigeon is caged during transport and not released in a residential district.
I am not sure how the city will confirm that the intent is to feed a member of the Family Columbidae as opposed to a different bird family.
Third, while this can be a nuisance, I spent my youth getting on and off the CTA at the Wilson station. My primary concern was staying alive (the neighborhood has improved since then) and to avoid being jumped by the ever-present pedophiles in the area. Indeed, I always found the bird droppings to add traction in out running the gang members chasing us. Of course, it was kids like us that were attracting the pedophiles like breadcrumbs. Perhaps we should have been banned as well. Then Cappelman could have the EL to himself.
I have no love for pigeons and never saw the need to feed them. I would often see old ladies doing this in the mornings. What I saw was perhaps misplaced kindness but not a crime. Regardless of who is right, Cappelman and other politicians need to stop using the criminal code as a way to elevate their pet peeves. There is already ample crime in the Chicago that goes unaddressed that leaves bodies not breadcrumbs on our city streets.