Report: County Leader Fights Juvenile Carjacking Reforms

Preckwinkle marches in a recent Chicago Pride Parade. | Wikipedia

Fresh off her primary win and coasting to certain re-election this fall, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is giving young Chicago carjackers a hug and a pat on the back.

Reporting in Crain’s Chicago Business today, political columnist Greg Hinz reveals that Preckwinkle is opposed to proposed state regulations that would establish more serious consequences for juveniles who carjack or are found riding in carjacked vehicles.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson are among the local leaders who’ve called for state reforms. But Preckwinkle isn’t having it, Hinz reports:

Preckwinkle [is] working against proposals in Springfield to close a legal loophole in which many of those involved in carjackings get off with little penalty because police can’t prove that everyone in the car knew it was stolen. The carjackings have put a face on an epidemic which may be starting to badly hurt this city’s economic prospects, prospects that are just as critical to the health of the South Side as the North Side.

Preckwinkle’s spokesman says her essential concern is that such legislation “is going to take a lot of young people who are not pointing a gun at anybody’s head and force them into the criminal justice system.” The spokesman declines to elaborate, at least for now.

Preckwinkle seems to have taken a position that no crime is serious unless someone is shot or killed. In February, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart complained that too many people who’d been charged with illegal gun possession were being released on electronic monitoring under the county’s new “affordable bail” initiative.

Preckwinkle responded that merely possessing a gun is not a violent crime: “I believe it is our responsibility to keep these matters in context and not contribute to sensationalizing them,” Preckwinkle told Dart.

Preckwinkle’s position also puts her at odds with Alderman Michele Smith (43rd) who represents much of Lincoln Park.

In the midst of a robbery surge across her ward this winter, Smith told constituents that she had begun to “research and question recent changes to the laws concerning juvenile offenders, sanitizing juvenile criminal records  and new protocols for setting bail that seem to favor defendants’ rights over public safety….crime must have consequences.”

As an example of low- to no-punishment being received by the city’s juvenile carjackers, Smith pointed to the case of a 15-year-old boy who tried to carjack a retired cop in Streeterville on February 2. The boy was arrested, processed, released and then arrested in connection with another carjacking on February 4.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com