Illinois’ new crime law is put to the test. We are both worried and watching |

With crime skyrocketing across the state, both sides in Springfield find themselves grappling with a life-or-death issue that demands problem-solving, not grandstanding. Yet politics is never far behind.

In Illinois, the issue provides an obvious target for Republicans, who have too little power at this point to shoulder much of the blame. Democrats don’t have that luxury as they instead seek good news to justify the merits of the sweeping criminal justice legislation they passed last year, even as they added additional proposals to fight back. against crime for this year’s condensed session in Springfield.

Incoming House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, now completing his first year in the chair occupied by former Speaker Mike Madigan prior to his election, has an ambitious agenda although he remains happily mum on fine details.

The issue throws raw meat at Republicans in the General Assembly who have rushed into persistent increases in carjackings and organized retail theft rings as a sign of Democrats weak on crime. All state lawmakers and Gov. JB Pritzker will take part in the November ballot and defend last year’s crime bill, which Republicans ripped into, saying it weakens law enforcement and emboldens criminals.

In addition to other recent Chicago crime horror stories, the carjacking issue seemed to hit state lawmakers close to home after Democratic Senator Kimberly Lightford and her husband, Eric McKennie, were hijacked by masked individuals in the western suburb of Broadview a few days before Christmas. . The heist prompted a shootout between the suspects and Lightford’s husband, who police say has a concealed carry permit.

Add that to the many break-ins at retail stores since the pandemic began, including blue ribbon stores on the Gold Coast and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, as well as in the suburbs.

The elimination of cash bail in 2023, a key provision of last year’s anti-crime legislation, is also under consideration. Aimed to address inequities in the justice system, the measure has already drawn fire from pro-police groups and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs.

The data so far shows a profound lack of empirical evidence that similar reforms in Cook County’s bail system have worsened crime in Chicago. But as a political issue, the crime always evokes strong feelings far removed from the actual evidence.

To wit: “These guys aren’t going to show up,” said Durkin, a former Cook County prosecutor. “I know that for a fact.”

Still, as the new law has yet to take effect, Welch said he still supports eliminating cash bail and cautioned against tying a measure that has yet to take effect. effect on the escalation of violence.

Indeed, on bail reform, the jury is still out, but amid watchful waiting.

Welch and his fellow Democrats have already signaled a reconsideration of their approach to tackling crime, particularly in light of these brazen episodes of carjacking, which understandably terrifies many citizens, and retail theft, which has a visible impact on tourism and economic development in downtown Chicago. It is wise. Lax bail reform and electronic monitoring have had outrageous and tragic consequences, as noted earlier on this page, a situation further aggravated by pressures to reduce the prison population during the global pandemic.

State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, a Democrat from Chicago who voted in favor of the criminal justice reform package, suggested more recently during a Zoom-based town hall meeting in Chicago’s Lakeview community that the law could need another look.

‘I don’t think anyone negotiated for repeat offenders and people in possession of a firearm and charged with a violent crime to be released on an I-bond,’ she said at the meeting. (As previously reported by crime-reporting site CWB Chicago.) She’s right. An I-bond, short for individual bond, allows a defendant to be released simply by signing a statement that they will come to court, without having to post a cash bond. This clearly dangerous privilege should be strictly limited to non-violent offenders. If we didn’t all know this before, we certainly do now.

Now that the new legislation has moved from dream to reality, the responsible minds of both parties must come together for the good of the public that elected them. They must be willing to closely review the impact and effectiveness of what they have done.

The current criminal scourge has touched the lives and shaken the confidence of Illinoisans across the state, contributing to a profound and depressing change in how people feel safe in their neighborhoods and thus to an exodus of Illinoisans of all edges. The true measure of the success of this crime-fighting legislation is not in who is more ‘left’ or ‘right’, but in what we can see has worked in recent months and its prospects for our future. commmon.

–Chicago Grandstand

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