Get anti-crime laws right before you put them on the books

Suddenly, there’s a rush in Springfield to enact crime-fighting bills. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is circulating the latest version of her Victims’ Justice Ordinance among city council members. Before accelerating the adoption of new measures in the law, it is important to put them in place.

Republican lawmakers unveiled their own bills a few weeks ago and may add more. Among other provisions, the GOP bills would allocate $100 million to police departments to hire officers and purchase equipment, toughen penalties for gun crimes and allow counties to opt out of certain provisions. of the Criminal Justice Reform Act that Governor JB Pritzker signed into law last January.

Without Democratic support, however, Republican bills are unlikely to go anywhere.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said last week that Democrats would introduce their own set of anti-crime bills to avoid looking like the party that is soft on crime. He did not give details on the content of the legislation.

In Chicago, Lightfoot is renewing its efforts to pass its victims’ justice ordinance, which stalled in September. The ordinance would allow the city to prosecute suspected gang members, recover damages and seize property related to alleged gang activity through forfeiture. As this editorial wrote last September, asset seizures are an outdated and ineffective approach.

“Crime has overtaken all other issues,” State Rep. Martin Moylan, D-Des Plaines, told us. “Before, people talked about the budget, accountability and other issues. Now all they talk about is crime.

In an election year, candidates are already thinking about what opposition mailers hitting their constituents’ mailboxes will accuse them of.

Among the issues worrying some lawmakers are the rise in carjackings and fears that organized networks of adults are relying on teenagers, who face lighter sentences if caught, to steal the cars. There are also concerns about organized retail theft by people who steal large quantities of goods from stores or arrange to sell the stolen items.

Additionally, lawmakers are focusing on assaults on victims by groups of people in the city and suburbs, and a new law that allows people under electronic surveillance for serious crimes to stay away from their homes for 48 hours before being charged. to be charged with criminal escape.

Carjacking, retail theft and electronic surveillance issues are serious issues that need to be addressed.

The question, as one legislator put it, is, “How do you make people feel safe?”

Last year, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office recorded 1,077 homicides, 1,002 of which were firearm-related. It was the first time the bureau had recorded more than 1,000 homicides since 1994. Carjackings have increased nearly 300% since 2019. Some other types of crime have declined, however.

To move the needle on crime, it is not enough to respond to outbreaks of violence with policies designed to meet political needs. Policies that work are those that involve sustained effort over a period of time. Politicians tempted to promote crime in the upcoming election will only make matters worse.

In the past, bills that did nothing more than toughen penalties for various types of crimes were usually passed by the Legislative Assembly. The criminal justice reform legislation signed by Pritzker sought to reverse this trend. Now, however, the reforms are being pushed back by the police and some prosecutors.

Some lawmakers are feeling “reform fatigue” after years of struggling with criminal justice issues. It’s understandable, but they can’t afford to give up on ongoing efforts to improve both public safety and fairness in our justice system.

Lawmakers proposing new bills should be armed with facts, not hyperbole. A bill introduced Thursday by State Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, to repeal last January’s reform bill — lock, stock and barrel — isn’t helpful.

A single example of legislation that would bring benefits would be a bill aimed at combating the proliferation of “phantom guns”, firearms that people assemble themselves without serial numbers, which are needed to trace the weapons. Some ghost guns do not contain metal and do not trigger metal detectors. Thursday, Chicago Police Superintendent. David Brown announced two arrests and the seizure of 35 firearms, dozens of loaded magazines and models used to produce ghost weapons.

For a safer future, any new laws should be part of a thoughtful plan to reduce crime, not just knee-jerk policy-based proposals.

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Colin L. Johnson