Chicago is debating whether to hire more police officers to enforce traffic laws, transfer more of the responsibility to civilian traffic-control aides or, simply let drivers and pedestrians duke it out on the streets, says the Chicago Tribune. The struggle comes amid worsening traffic congestion a spree of deadly hit-and-run accidents across the city this summer. Some aldermen question whether the traffic- control aides, who are not police officers, receive adequate training. Other city officials, led by Mayor Richard Daley, are wary of replacing the aides with police officers because, they argue, the officers are needed to fight crime.
“When I first became an alderman, there was a police traffic officer on every block of Michigan Avenue, and it was like having a police station on each corner,” said Alderman Burton Natarus. “The drivers in this town are not obeying the orders of these traffic aides, and until they do we are not going to get anywhere.”
Attention to what Alderman Thomas Allen has called Chicagoans’ Wild West driving mentality became sharply focused after a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a 4-year-old girl who was walking with her family near Lincoln Park Zoo in May. The City Council subsequently passed an ordinance to hire 100 more police officers to handle traffic duties citywide, using fines collected from drivers running red traffic lights who were caught by cameras.