The plan of Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to repeal the city’s prohibition on possession of burglar’s tools was unanimously rejected by Evanston’s City Council this week.
In the end even Reid himself voted for the substitute measure — proposed by Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) — that simply changed the burden of proof required to sustain the charge — although Reid made a last-minute pitch at the Council meeting for full repeal.
The city’s burglar’s tools ordinance is similar to a state law that makes possession of such tools with intent to use them in a burglary a felony — punishable by prison time.
The city ordinance has only monetary fines as a penalty and lets the charge be handled through the city’s administrative adjudication process.
Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski said that eliminating the local ordinance would eliminate options for alternative adjudication that, for example, could keep youthful offenders out of the criminal court system.
Police Chief Richard Eddington said his department would prefer to have the option to decide when to seek a felony charge and when to pursue alternatives to arrest.
Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings said amending the city ordinance to require that the prosecution show that the person intended to use the tools in a burglary — rather than requiring the person accused to prove he had them for a lawful purpose as in the existing ordinance — would be desirable.
He noted that a Chicago ordinance dealing with burglar’s tools that also required the accused to show a lawful purpose had been ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court decades ago.
Reid, distrusting the view of the city’s law department, claimed the city should get a second opinion from an outside law firm about whether having a local ordinance that mirrors a state statute is legal.
But Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) asked who’s going to pay for that — and said the Council should trust its law department to answer that question.
The ordinance, as amended, sets a fine of between $300 and $750 for the burglar’s tools offense.