Governor Pat Quinn today signed a tough new law to fight gang crime and reduce violence in Illinois. The new law empowers law enforcement with the ability to prosecute street gang leaders for the criminal acts of their organizations. Joining the governor was Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and local lawmakers.
"One of the best ways to make our neighborhoods safer is to go after street gang leaders who profit from crime," Governor Quinn said. "Gang leaders cannot be allowed to escape justice by hiding behind criminals who do their bidding. This law will help law enforcement get gangs off the street and keep them off."
House Bill 1907, sponsored by Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Chicago), is modeled off the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act that was designed to help law enforcement fight organized crime by treating criminal acts committed by members of the group as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Under this legislation, law enforcement in Illinois can more effectively target the street gang leaders who order and benefit from the crimes of lower-ranking members.
The Illinois Street Gang RICO was an initiative of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who recently formed the office's first anti-racketeering unit to use the new law to build gang RICO cases involving multiple defendants with the goal of dismantling the street gang from the top down. The unit's specially-trained prosecutors will also work with other State's Attorney's Offices throughout Illinois on how to apply the law effectively.
"For the first time in the history of our state, this new law will give local prosecutors the tools to identify and address patterns in multiple gang-related offenses and join different organized crime offenses and different offenders into a single court proceeding," Alvarez said. "Prior to the signing of this bill, state prosecutors were typically only able to charge individual gang crimes and rarely, if ever, were able to prosecute and hold gang leaders accountable for the organized activities of the street gang and its rank-and-file members."
Under the new law, gang members convicted of criminal conspiracy under the new law could face more than 30 years in prison depending on the associated crimes, and fines of up to $250,000 or twice the gross amount of any criminal proceeds. Illinois joins 31 other states in having racketeering statutes.
According to the Chicago Police Department, Chicago has the largest gang population in the country, with approximately 100,000 members in hundreds of factions. 75-80% of the city's homicides are gang-related.
"On behalf of the children, families and neighbors of Chicago and across Illinois, I commend the Governor for signing HB1907 into law today, and I thank State Senator Tony Munoz and State Representative Mike Zalewski for their work on this bipartisan legislation and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for her leadership on this issue," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "This law will give local law enforcement the power to prosecute gang leaders for crimes that they ordered others to commit and provide a critical tool to dismantle the structure of gangs that are targeting our neighborhoods."
"The Chicago Police Department is committed to making Chicago a safe place to live, work, and play for our residents and we will use all available resources, including the new RICO law, to ensure the safety of communities across the city of Chicago," said CPD Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy. "I commend Mayor Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez for their leadership, State Senator Tony Munoz and Representative Mike Zalewski for their sponsorship, and Governor Pat Quinn for his support of this critical legislation and look forward to the positive effect this action will have in Chicago."
"As a former law enforcement officer, I've seen firsthand how gangs are destroying our neighborhoods," said Sen. Tony Munoz. "The violence and the killing needs to stop for the good our children, our communities, and our city. This law sends a strong message to gangs that they can no longer dodge justice."
"Under this law, judges and juries will be able to see the big picture when it comes to looking at the full impact of gangs in Illinois," Rep. Mike Zalewski said. "Gangs that collectively benefit from crimes should not be able to escape criminal responsibility by letting junior members take the fall."
The law takes effect immediately.