Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a group of state lawmakers announced new legislation Sunday aimed at changing an Illinois law to crack down on a recent surge of carjackings.
They hope to close a loophole that lawmakers say has led to many vehicle thefts resulting in misdemeanor charges, as reported by ABC-owned WLS Chicago.
Emanuel stressed that they do not want to strengthen the three- to seven-year sentencing guidelines for motor-vehicle theft, but are looking to change the requirements for the crime itself.
Last year, there were about 1,000 carjackings in Chicago, according to data released by the city on Sunday. Since January 2017, there have been 4,240 vehicle thefts, and 74 percent of those were charged as misdemeanors. Only 21 percent were charged as felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and 37 percent of those arrested had a prior arrest for some type of motor-vehicle theft.
In addition to closing the loophole in the state law, city officials are also equipping police cars with new technology to better identify and track stolen vehicles. License-plate readers will collect and share data with authorities to ensure quicker responses, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
The call for new legislation comes after the mayor formed a task force in January to examine the growing problem. This new law would be modeled after one in California and would require that a person possess a vehicle without the consent of the owner to be charged with a crime.
“Public safety is an all hands on deck effort, which is why we need to make sure this simple change to state law gets passed,” Senator Tony Munoz said. “It’s important that we work together as community leaders and residents to get this legislation passed and get car thieves off the streets.”