Senate Democrats unveil legislation aimed at addressing carjackings

By Grace Kinnicutt Capitol News Illinois

Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, and Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, unveil measures aimed at addressing carjackings at a news conference at the Capitol Tuesday, April 5.(Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Senate Democrats unveiled legislation Tuesday, April 5 to address the increase in carjackings by protecting victims and providing additional resources to law enforcement in targeting and capturing offenders.

House Bill 3699, sponsored by Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, would aim to provide additional resources to metropolitan law enforcement groups or other law enforcement cooperatives to work together to help target and capture carjackers.

Any state funding to be directed at grant programs laid out in the bill would need to be approved in budget negotiations, however.

“We’re obviously in very deep budget negotiations and we’re trying to identify funding sources for all of this,” Martwick said at a news conference unveiling the bills.

The budgeting process is scheduled to conclude Friday, and several of the public safety-centric measures put forth by Democrats in recent days will be subject to that appropriations process.

Senate Amendment 2 to the bill defines carjacking as when an individual, alone or together, knowingly takes a motor vehicle from a person by threatening or using force. Under Illinois law, carjacking is a Class 1 felony and punishable by four to 15 years in prison and if a gun is used, it is a Class X felony and punishable by 15 years to life.

“The General Assembly has the ability to equip our law enforcement officers with more ways to protect our communities,” Martwick said.

Another provision in the bill would aim to create more collaboration between metropolitan law enforcement groups, other law enforcement cooperatives and police departments to better address carjackings. Those groups would have the ability to receive state grants to focus on carjacking deterrence if the funds are included in the budget.

Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, said the legislation will help increase the presence of law enforcement and use of technology.

Hastings said lawmakers have been working with the Illinois State Police to increase the amount of state troopers on the streets to help address the increase in carjackings, and he said expressway cameras approved by the General Assembly can be a helpful tool in catching carjackers.

In the fiscal year 2023 budget, Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed $18.6 million in general funds to support three ISP cadet classes to hire and train 300 troopers.

House Bill 3772, sponsored by Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, provides protections for carjacking victims who received a red light or speed camera violation after their vehicle was stolen. If the person were to receive a citation, the court or hearing officer would be able to consider whether the vehicle was stolen before the violation occurred.

If the car were to also be towed following a carjacking, the fees would be waived if they submit a police report.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said she and her husband were victims of a carjacking around Christmas. Lightford said they were dropping a friend off and as they were getting back into their car, three masked individuals came up to them and told her husband to get down on the ground.

Lightford said the moment felt like a movie as she pleaded with the carjackers not to shoot her husband. She said they took her purse and started to look in the car’s glove compartment and armrest. But she said the car was a loaner and it was empty, which caused the carjackers to become upset.

To distract the other two men, Lightford said her husband threw the keys across the ground to get them on the driver’s side of the car so she could leave the passenger’s side and run.

“My husband told me to run. I was terrified and I believed that I stopped breathing,” Lightford said.

Lightford said the carjackers still have yet to be caught but that law enforcement responded quickly that night and did a good job in handling the situation as best as they could.

The news conference was the third in as many session days held by Democrats to tout public safety proposals.

During a news conference on Monday, April 4, Democrats unveiled a set of proposals that they say help with the recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers. The legislation would create a Law Enforcement Recruitment and Retention Fund, creation of a grant program for off-hour day care, a measure that would require counties to pay sheriffs 80 percent of their state’s attorney pay and focuses on officer’s mental health.