New law aims to make funeral processions safer
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com June 23, 2013 9:32PM
Updated: July 25, 2013 6:02AM
Mary Jo Jedrey is among neighbors of Mount Hope Cemetery looking forward to quieter and safer funeral processions thanks to new legislation aimed at cracking down on rowdiness.
She lives in the 11400 block of South Fairfield Avenue, a half-block from the cemetery’s one and only entrance at 115th and Fairfield.
Some Fridays and Saturdays, she said, there have been occassions when up to 20 processions arrived, causing gridlock. Add the presence of rowdy gang members, a frequent occurence, and things can turn scary fast.
“You see them flashing their gang signs and hanging out of cars. They drive recklessly. One time, a gun was fired into the air on Talman near my husband, who was not hurt,” she said.
There have not been any major injuries, State Sen. Bill Cunningham said. But in an efffort to prevent potential tragedies and limit reckless behavior, he sponsored Senate Bill 2154 which allows police to impound vehicles driven recklessly. The measure cleared both the Illinois House and Senate this spring and heads to Gov. Pat Quinn for his consideration.
“I think it’s fabulous. You can’t let your kids play out here on weekends when they are driving crazy,” Jedrey said of the proposal.
At the urging of residents, Cunningham worked with Chicago Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) and State Rep. Fran Hurley to craft the measure. They met with residents to discuss the problem and review possible solutions.
Frightening proof of what’s been happening can be found at http://www.youtube.com/mounthopevideo. Cars swerve into oncoming traffic as processions slow to a crawl entering the cemetery. People can be seen hanging out open doors of vehicles.
It’s more than dangerous, Cunningham said.
“It’s incredibly disrespectful to the family members of the deceased. They are at the front of funeral procession and they have this reckless, incredibly disrespectful behavior going on behind them in the funeral procession,” Cunningham said.
In a prepared statement, O’Shea said, “impounding vehicles will send a strong message to those that would allow dangerous behavior to dishonor both the living and the dead.”
Cunningham said Chicago Police, Cook County Sheriff’s Police, and Mount Hope Cemetery officials all have been helpful.
Mount Hope officials have agreed to create a second entrance on 119th Street that “will ease the pressure of sometimes incredible gridlock,” Cunningham said.
“They’re committed to a second entrance this year, and they’ve agreed to additional (private) security to help processions in and out. This has been a problem for years, but we have seen some progress,” Cunningham said.
Some progress has been made, Jedrey said, with orange traffic cones placed along 115th Street during high-volume days helping residents get in and out of their streets safely.
Impounding vehicles as a deterrent was the idea of Tony Bansley, of the Morgan Park community, Cunningham said.
“If the city has a weapon like this, if you tow three or four cars, that will send a real message and act as a deterrent and prevent this sort of reckless conduct in the future,” Cunningham said.
Bill Doyle, of the 14000 block of South Washtenaw Avenue, said he agrees with the idea of impounding the cars of people caught driving recklessly in funeral processions.
“You know, it’s supposed to be a funeral, so it should be honorable and all that stuff. These kids are making a mockery of the whole thing,” Doyle said. “I think the governor should sign it. These kids are weaving in and out of traffic and shooting guns off. It’s dangerous to everybody.”
“I just don’t understand the whole mentality of the kids that do this,” Doyle added,
Resident Kathleen Walsh Mulcahy is “thrilled out of my mind with joy” about the proposal because she fears someone getting hurt. And, she feels for the families who are burying loved ones.
“Every time a funeral passes,” she said, “all my children make the sign of the cross and we all pray for that family and the soul of that person. We see it every day.”