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Illinois House Republicans demand action to address crime

Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) speaks about proposals to address crime, including his...
Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) speaks about proposals to address crime, including his bill to repeal the SAFE-T Act.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 4:24 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - As the clock winds down toward the end of session for Illinois lawmakers, House GOP members say enough hasn’t been done to address rising crime. Some still argue lawmakers should repeal the Legislative Black Caucus’ SAFE-T Act that was signed into law last year.

Democratic leaders said at the start of session that they would pass a plan to address carjackings and organized crime, but those bills haven’t been introduced yet.

Meanwhile, Republicans stress lawmakers must take swift action to address violent crimes across the state. During a press conference Wednesday, they noted a rise in murders, carjackings, and thefts.

House Republicans blame the Democratic supermajority for passing the SAFE-T Act. They continue to claim Democrats didn’t take input from law enforcement leaders or Republicans.

Now, Rep. Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis) wants to reinstate cash bail.

“We had bail reform in 2017 that went into effect in 2018,” Windhorst said. “We saw increased recidivism from that. My worry is when you pull out cash bail completely, we’re going to see even greater degrees of recidivism.”

Cash bail is still in place in Illinois until Jan. 1, 2023. That portion of the SAFE-T Act had strong support from advocates who emphasized cash bail benefits wealthy criminals who can pay while poor defendants are left behind bars.

House Democrats say their colleagues are trying to use “transparent dog-whistle scare tactics to score points” before the 2022 election. Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) was one of the lead sponsors of the SAFE-T Act and chairs the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee.

“Democrats are working with stakeholders to find equitable and effective solutions to address public safety priorities,” Slaughter said Wednesday.

Still, many Republicans believe the recent spike in crime is due to fewer penalties for criminals in Illinois. Rep. Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich) says carjackings, smash and grabs, and shootings are on the rise in his district. He represents wealthy white communities in the Chicago suburbs.

“They used to be places that many of us didn’t even bother to lock the car doors or front doors of their homes,” Bos said. “But now local police are making a point to warn people that they have to be on guard.”

Bos said lawmakers need to stress that criminals will face punishment and police need full support from their state. However, Republican bills to repeal the SAFE-T Act won’t be considered before session is set to end on April 8.

GOP members say that the law is causing more police to leave Illinois and some smaller departments to disband.

“We will only pass legislation that supports law enforcement without returning us to ineffective and overly punitive policies, which have devastated black and brown communities in the past,” Slaughter said.

Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) recently introduced a bill to allow voters to recall Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Butler said Foxx is “out of control” and puts criminals before victims. He argues all Illinoisans should care about decisions Foxx makes to let criminals get away.

“What happens in Chicago and what happens in Cook County does have an impact across this entire state,” Butler said. “That’s why I’m hopefully giving the ability for the people of Cook County to make that decision to recall their state’s attorney.”

Butler read an example of an email in support of his plan. The person who lives on the north side of Chicago said they are so worried about the rising crime that they carry a concealed weapon while shoveling snow on their sidewalk. Butler said he has talked with many Democrats about his plan, but he admitted that he hasn’t gained their full support.

“I think it speaks to the politics of the Democratic Party when they agree with my legislation but they know they can’t go on as co-sponsors. I would call them silent co-sponsors in a way,” Butler said. “I think if you would see this bill actually go up on the board for a vote, you would see a fair amount of the Democratic caucus vote for it.”

House Bill 5712 is locked in the House Rules Committee.

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