Anti-Gang Rico Law for Illinois

Local authorities in Chicago and across the State of Illinois now have the power to go after street gangs as criminal organizations under a new Illinois law.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Street Gang RICO Act on June 11, 2012.

The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) doles out stiff penalties for acts performed as part of a criminal organization, like the Mafia.  The Illinois law applies the same idea to street gangs and it takes effect immediately.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is a proponent, with support from Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. She says it'll help prosecutors go after gang leaders instead of treating gang crimes as isolated events. Her office has started a new division for RICO cases.

Illinois is not the first state to enact similar laws, over two dozen other states have laws mirroring the federal RICO laws.

The Illinois law lists dozens of crimes, including murder for hire, kidnapping and sex trafficking, and allows prosecutors to connect single crimes to the larger group. It also stiffens penalties. The goal is to dismantle gangs.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says, "We want to go after these mobsters and gangsters who are killing people and hurting the public safety of our state."

McCarthy said 75 to 80 percent of the shootings and homicides in Chicago are gang-related and estimated that the city has 100,000 gang members.

His comments followed another uptick in city violence; during the weekend eight people were killed and at least 40 wounded in shootings citywide. This year, Chicago reported 203 homicides through late May, a 51 percent increase from the same time period last year when it was 134 homicides.

Neither Alvarez nor McCarthy could say how long it would take for the first case to be prosecuted under the new law. Alvarez said her office had created a new unit to handle the cases and will train police on how to spot them.

"Instead of looking at the individual acts of one or two gang members, we are going to be looking at the entire enterprise ... somehow really make a dent into the gang problems and get to the guys who are calling the shots," she said. "They are the ones that are usually nowhere to be found. We may convict the soldier but we never get the general."


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