Illinois crime reduction task force starts conversation about future policies
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois state lawmakers are trying to find solutions to address crime by working with law enforcement and community organizations. The state’s new Crime Reduction Task Force met for the first time Tuesday.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) said violent crime has remained relatively stable since 2010. ICJIA researchers told the task force that murder and shooting victimization totals increased in 2020 and 2021. However, they are optimistic that murders and shootings in Illinois are on pace to decrease for 2022.
ICJIA Research Director Tim Lavery told the task force that arrest totals dropped shortly after the COVID-19 stay-at-home order went into effect. While arrests have risen since that time, Lavery said the state is seeing nowhere near the same level of arrests as before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“We did see a downward trend following the onset of COVID,” Lavery said. “It did rebound especially statewide non-Chicago. It rebounded a little bit for Chicago, but not as pronouncedly. That’s all arrests for anything perhaps with some gaps for really low-level offenses.”
Kathy Saltmarsh, Executive Director of the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council, said the trend lines show big patterns over time. She noted that crime rates and crime are not responsive to new sentencing policies.
“If we want to impact the amount of crime per capita in the state of Illinois, we have to look at some of the things that we are actually doing that are very evidence-based and you guys have put money into, but they haven’t had time to work yet,” Saltmarsh said.
She explained leaders need more time to see the impact of these evidence-based programs such as trauma centers. House Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) said everyone across the state deserves to live in a safe community. She is leading the new task force alongside Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). They want to work with stakeholders in the criminal justice system to generate data-driven policy ideas.
The ACLU of Illinois said the state can do better at responding to and solving crimes. ACLU criminal justice policy attorney Ben Ruddell argued that lawmakers should focus more on preventing crime in the first place. He said improving education, mental health services and trauma centers can help address the root causes of crime.
Gordon-Booth noted that Illinois recently put historic funding toward violence prevention efforts. She said that additional lighting in neighborhoods could also deter crime.
“Crime survivors want to see investments in communities,” Gordon-Booth said. “So, we want to be able to center the voices of all survivors as a part of this crime reduction conversation as well as law enforcement and grassroots organizations.”
Previously incarcerated people will also have an opportunity to share their ideas about addressing crime in both metro areas and rural communities.
“We’re gonna have community involvement in this process,” Peters said. “We want to make sure that we’re bringing in different members of the community to be able to provide input from a variety of different places, demographics, and populations.”
The task force will allow for public comment during each meeting, although no one participated during the public comment period Tuesday afternoon.
The task force is required to submit a detailed report with policy recommendations to Gov. JB Pritzker and the General Assembly before March 1.
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