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Crime Emerges as Top Election Year Issue in Illinois

With Illinois Republicans hammering the statewide spike in crime as their top election year issue, Democratic state legislators are being forced to defend last year’s sweeping criminal justice legislation and have opened the door to adding crime-fighting proposals to the agenda of this year’s condensed session, the Chicago Tribune reports. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch was vague about what measures could be under consideration, but acknowledged a need to address increases in crimes like carjackings and organized retail theft. “I can’t talk to you about specifics 11 days into session. But I can tell you that conversations are already taking place on ...a possible crime package,” the Democrat said, marking his first year as the General Assembly’s first Black House speaker.

Republicans have talked about measures to tackle carjackings and organized retail theft as part of their effort to paint Democrats as weak on crime heading into November’s election, when all state legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker will be on the ballot. The GOP has maintained a drumbeat of criticism over criminal justice legislation, which proponents say was intended to address inequities in the justice system, that was passed by the Democrats last year and signed by Pritzker. Republicans say the law as a whole weakens law enforcement and emboldens criminals. A key provision of that legislation is the elimination of cash bail in 2023. Pro-police groups have expressed concern the measure could lead to more crime, despite there being no empirical proof that some reforms made in recent years, such as with Cook County’s bail system, exacerbated crime in Chicago. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin offered a bleak prediction of the effect he expects the elimination of cash bail to have. “No one should feel comfortable that people who are in this system ... are going to return to the courthouse,” said Durkin, a former Cook County prosecutor. “These guys aren’t going to show up. I know it for a fact.

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