Republican Senators unveil legislation to target violent crime

SPRINGFIELD – State Senators Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), John Curran (R-Downers Grove), Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), Steve McClure (R-Springfield), and Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) today unveiled a package of legislation specifically designed to empower law enforcement and other members of the community to take on the crime wave that has enveloped the state.

The legislation includes the “Fund the Police Act,” which will provide a major infusion of resources to criminal justice and mental health programs, via a $100 million appropriation. The Act would put state funds into the front-line fight against violent crime and mental health issues that are plaguing neighborhoods across Illinois.

“Downstate communities, including Champaign and Decatur, are experiencing unprecedented levels of violent crime,” said Rose. “The ‘Fund the Police Act’ will put resources where they are needed most, get qualified boots on the ground to fight violent crime, fund training and equipment programs for officers, and help tackle mental issues which are driving up crime.”

The package provides more protection for law enforcement officers against violent offenders, by requiring that individuals who assault police officers or bring weapons into penal institutions serve 85 percent of their sentence.

It also increases sentencing for gun crimes with a “10 and life” sentencing rule for violent offenses committed with firearms, as well as a 10-year minimum sentence for those convicted of supplying guns to criminals.

“The crime numbers coming out of Chicago and other Illinois cities speak for themselves, and we must do more to keep families safe and hold violent offenders accountable,” said Curran. “These legislative proposals will bring enhanced accountability for gun violence and act as an actual deterrent to committing a violent act with a gun. We must push back hard on the recent brazenness of violent crime that is endangering the citizens of our state.”​

The package also includes legislation designed to reform how juvenile courts handle violent crimes, by ending the practice of “catch and release” for carjackers, and automatically transferring individuals who commit school shootings to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“With FBI reports that Illinois is outpacing the rest of our nation in violent crime, we must approach the issue of public safety on a number of different fronts,” said Tracy. “We need proposals that will have a significant impact on violent crime in Illinois without negatively affecting the rights of law-abiding citizens. We also need to recognize the use of juveniles to commit crimes, as a means to avoid harsher penalties in adult criminal court. We are suggesting reforms to try and balance those concerns.”

The legislation would also allow counties to opt out of current controversial bail reform provisions passed in the criminal justice overhaul and automatically deny bail to repeat gun offenders.

“At a time when the most serious issue facing our state is violent crime, the people of Illinois expect the General Assembly to take real action to address the violence and protect communities,” said McClure.

The package creates a more robust tracking system for gun crimes and those convicted of committing them. Finally, it helps schools find qualified resource officers by allowing them to hire retired law enforcement officers, as well providing a fund to boost local mental health programs.

“With reports of rising crime in communities across Illinois, public safety must be a top priority,” said Stewart, a retired Stephenson County Sheriff’s Sergeant. “We must end deadly delays with laws that will improve the tracking and reporting of gun crimes. We must do more to give local officials the tools they need to make our communities safer.”

A final initiative in the proposal provides a source of local funding by directing 20 percent of annual revenues collected under the Community Mental Health Act to be used by county sheriffs for mental health services within county jail systems.

The legislative package includes:

Fund the Police Act

  • SB 2918: Creates Fund the Police Grant Fund with $100,000,000 with appropriations to the ILETSB to make grants to local governments and universities to hire police officers, purchasing equipment designed to prevent gang violence, motor vehicle theft, carjacking, or sale of contraband, and training for law enforcement in preventing gang violence, motor vehicle theft, carjacking, or the sale of contraband. This includes mental health, hiring and retention incentives, and overtime.

Eliminate Good Time for Weapons Offenses and Attacks on Law Enforcement Officers

  • SB 2916: Requires a defendant who commits Aggravated Battery to a Police Officer to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
  • SB 2917: Requires a defendant who brings a weapon or contraband into a penal institution serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Ending Deadly Delay

  • SB 2927: Requires Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to track gun crimes by convicted felons. Amended to include real-time reporting by county of gun offenses charged and outcome of the case.
  • SB 2926: Requires State’s Attorneys to provide written justification when a weapons offense is plea bargained down to a lesser offense or non-weapons offense. Similarly, in imposing a sentence, the judge shall set forth in a written sentencing order his/her reasons for imposing the sentence or accepting the plea agreement.
  • SB 2924: Allows a school or school district to employ qualified retired law enforcement officers to carry out the duties of a school resource officer.

Getting Serious on Gun Crime:

  • SB 2928: First-time conviction of the following offenses receives a mandatory 10-year sentence, second offense receives life sentence.
    • Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm.
    • Use of a stolen or illegally acquired firearm in the commission of an offense.
    • Unlawful use or possession of weapons by felons.
    • Armed Habitual Criminal.
    • Aggravated Vehicular Hijacking, or Aggravated Carjacking.
  • SB 2925: Mandatory minimum penalty for Gun trafficking/Straw purchases. Imposes a 10-year minimum on those who sell or give a firearm to a convicted felon.

Juvenile Court Reforms

  • SB 2929: Juvenile commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice for use or discharge of a firearm in a school that results in bodily injury or death to any person.
  • SB 2923: Restore offenses of aggravated vehicular hijacking and armed robbery committed by juveniles with a firearm to the automatic transfer provisions of adult court. 
  • SB 2922: Prevent “catch and release” of juvenile carjackers by requiring a shelter care hearing to determine if it is safe to release the juvenile or continue holding until the adjudicatory hearing.

 Bail Reform

  • SB 2020: Deny bail for previously convicted gun offenders or a felon charged with a gun offense. 
  • SB 2921: Adds violation of bail bond, escape, and aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude to the more serious “Category A” bond provisions. 
  • SB 2919: Allows counties to opt out of Bail Reform Act provisions if county board adopts a resolution to do so.

 Mental Health Reform

  • SB 1649: Amends the Community Mental Health Act. Provides that upon receipt of all the annual moneys collected from the tax levied under the Act, each governmental unit that levies that tax shall immediately deposit 20 percent of those moneys into a special fund directly controlled by the county sheriff to be used for mental health services within the county jail.

“The people of Illinois need action right now,” said Rose. “We are demanding that Senate President Harmon (D-Oak Park) call these bills for a full vote of the Senate this veto session.”

All bills have been filed and language can be found here. The legislation will show up after the next perfunctory session.

Jil Tracy

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