Law Steps Up Efforts to Bring Down Chicago Gangs

June 12, 2012

Over this past weekend in Chicago, gun violence injured close to 40 people and killed at least eight, including a 16-year-old boy who was standing on the porch of his own Chicago real estate.

Violence has become the norm in Chicago. Homicides increased more than 50 percent from January through May of this year compared to the same period in 2011. According to the Chicago Police Department, about 80 percent of all city homicides are gang-related, and Chicago has the largest gang population in the country with approximately 100,000 members in hundreds of factions.

police car driving across lake from chicagoOur city is not a safe place to be and something needs to be done about it.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are responding by increasing the amount of law enforcement officials on the streets and adding undercover officers in the most gang-ridden neighborhoods.

And, on Monday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the “Illinois Street Gang RICO Act,” which allows prosecutors to charge criminal acts committed by members of a group as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

Previously, gang crimes could be charged only as isolated acts. Under the new law, gang members who order and benefit from the crimes of lower-ranking members can now be held accountable.

“One of the best ways to make our neighborhoods safer is to go after street gang leaders who profit from crime,” said Governor Quinn. “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), was modeled after the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which was designed to prosecute members of the mob.

Illinois becomes the 32nd state in the country with a RICO statute. Under the law, gang members convicted of criminal conspiracy could face more than 30 years in prison and fines of up $250,000 or twice the gross amount of any criminal proceeds.

“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.”

The law takes effect immediately. Let’s hope it makes a big difference in dismantling gang activity and saving our residents and beautiful city.

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