Senate Democrats take aim at carjackings in latest anti-crime proposals

With just days before the General Assembly is set to adjourn, it was the latest Democratic effort meant to address rising crime — a problem prominent in many residents’ minds and in Republican campaign ads.

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State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford discusses being the victim of a carjacking on Tuesday at a Springfield news conference.

State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford discusses being the victim of a carjacking on Tuesday at a Springfield news conference.

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SPRINGFIELD — Aiming to address what they described as an “uptick” in carjackings, state Senate Democrats unveiled measures on Tuesday they said would help law enforcement agencies to work together to make arrests and to protect victims from undeserved costs that further traumatize them after the crime.

With just days before the General Assembly is set to adjourn, it was the latest Democratic effort meant to address rising crime — a problem prominent in many residents’ minds and in Republican campaign ads.

“Today, we are discussing a very real and serious problem that we are seeing statewide and in the city of Chicago, and that’s the uptick in carjacking,” state Sen. Omar Aquino said at a statehouse news conference. “Last year alone, more carjackings were reported in the city of Chicago, more than any other city in the country.”

State Sen. Omar Aquino speaks at a statehouse news conference in Springfield on Tuesday.

State Sen. Omar Aquino speaks at a statehouse news conference in Springfield on Tuesday.

Blue Room Stream

The Near Northwest Side Democrat was joined by other state senators, including state Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, who recounted the chilling details of the carjacking she and her husband were subjected to in in west suburban Broadview in December.

“We were dropping off a friend, and we got boxed in. It appeared to be like a movie scene,” the Westchester Democrat said.

“My husband told me to run. I was terrified, and I believe that I stopped breathing. I just thought with every step I would be hit with a bullet in my back.”

Carjackings have increased in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs over the past couple years, according to police officials.

After a drop earlier in the year, the number of people carjacked — 499 — is up 3% in Chicago, the Sun-Times reported last week. Chicago Police told the newspaper that they had made 72 arrests for carjacking this year, 57% of them juveniles.

One of the measures Democrats introduced to address the problem was designed to allow Metropolitan Enforcement Groups — or law enforcement units of local and state government — to better cooperate to enforce laws and coordinate efforts to target carjackings.

“This would be State Police, county sheriffs, municipalities pooling resources to work together to target carjacking,” said state Sen. Rob Martwick, D-Chicago, the sponsor of the bill.

State Sen. Rob Martwick, D-Chicago, discusses his bill on Tuesday.

State Sen. Rob Martwick, D-Chicago, discusses his bill on Tuesday.

Blue Room Stream

The bill would also allow the groups to receive state grants, but senators said they were working to identify funding amid negotiations over the state budget.

Under the other proposed measure, victims of carjackings who receive red-light camera or speeding tickets that the carjackers racked up can appeal the violations with the court or hearing officer, if their vehicle was stolen prior to the traffic violation. Additionally, the bill would waive impound fees for the owner of a stolen vehicle.

Aquino, the sponsor of the bill, said it was intended “to make sure that we are not traumatizing folks even more.”

The measures are the latest in a series of crimefighting efforts that lawmakers have unveiled as the session comes to a close.

Just last week, senators introduced a bill aimed at curbing organized retail crime, better known as “smash-and-grab” robberies.

The proposal, backed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, defines organized retail crime and gives prosecutors additional opportunities to bring charges for the crime. The bill also aims to combat stolen goods being sold online by requiring third-party sellers to verify the identity of users.

The bill is waiting to be discussed in the Senate Executive Committee.

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