Chicago mayor wants new law to thwart carjackings

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a group of state lawmakers announced new legislation Sunday aimed at changing an IL law to crack down on a recent surge of carjackings.

Johnson and Emanuel cited a legal loophole in state law that is often exploited in such cases, and they hope the law will be changed to help keep offenders behind bars.

Emanuel said he had spoken to House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), about the bill and they were "very interested in moving the legislation".

Recently, a retired police officer pinned a would-be vehicle thief to the ground after an attempted carjacking in Streeterville. The proposed legislation doesn't toughen the three to seven year sentence for motor vehicle theft, but instead changes the requirements for the crime. Under current law, a person found with a stolen vehicle can only be charged with a felony if police can prove the offender knew the auto was stolen.

Asked how a judge's discretion, especially in the juvenile system, might effect meaningful punishment and deterrence intended by the bill, Emanuel stepped away from the microphone and let Chicago Police Supt. 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.

"Unless the victim can positively identify the offender or if the officer can prove the driver knows they're in a stolen vehicle, many times they get a slap on the wrist and are back on the street far too soon", Johnson said.

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. "I had a resident before she even had a chance to turn off her vehicle and put it in park, she already had a gun to her head", said State Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago). City officials said they have seen a spike in carjackings on the West Side, along with significant increases downtown and on the North Side. Emanuel was joined by elected officials and police from the city and the suburbs in urging the change to state law Sunday.

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