Illinois Senate passes bill to crack down on juvenile carjackers

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The scene of an early-morning carjacking in May 2017 in the 2200 block of South Wabash. A man was shot and his BMW was taken. | Network Video Productions

Legislation designed to close a revolving door through which carjacking suspects often return to the street within 24 hours of their arrests passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.

The bill, approved by a vote of 56-0, must pass the House before the governor can decide whether to sign it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for the bill.

In February, the Sun-Times reported that dozens of juveniles were charged in Chicago with pointing guns at motorists and stealing their cars, but few were detained longer than a day.

Some went on to commit other crimes —including carjackings —after they were released on electronic monitoring, records show.

More juveniles than adults were charged with armed carjacking last year during an alarming rise of the crime in Chicago. There were almost 1,000 carjackings last year in compared with 663 in 2016, and the spike in crime affected almost every neighborhood.

The bill would put the burden on juvenile advocates to prove their clients should be freed until their cases are resolved. If the judge decides to detain a juvenile on allegations of carjacking, the suspect would have to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Sen. Bill Cunningham, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he thinks the changes would keep more carjacking suspects in detention longer.

“It has become clear that juvenile offenders are fueling the spike in Chicago carjackings,” said Cunningham, D-Chicago. “This bill will ensure that the criminal-justice system responds by remanding young offenders to juvenile detention rather than releasing them within a matter of hours.”

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