Announces New $18 Million Investment in Chicago Public Schools’ Project: ‘Back to Our Future’
Signs Bills to Combat Carjackings and Vehicle Theft
Building on the administration’s record $250 million funding for violence prevention through the Reimagine Public Safety program, today Governor JB Pritzker and other lawmakers announced additional funding for summer jobs and mental health for youth, as well as enacting several laws that are designed to combat carjackings.
These changes come as Illinois becomes the first state in the Midwest to ban untraceable, privately made firearms known as “ghost guns” and cracks down on organized retail crime rings.
“There is nothing more important than keeping our communities safe,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s why we’ve poured record funding into violence prevention and are surging additional resources to Chicago ahead of the summer. In order to help provide Illinoisans the security they deserve, we are also equipping law enforcement officers with the tools and protection they need to address rising crime rates. With these bills, we take another step towards dismantling cycles of violence that have plagued our neighborhoods for far too long.”
Summer Funding For CPS’ Project ‘Back to Our Future’
Governor Pritzker, in partnership with Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools, announced an $18M investment for project “Back to Our Future,” a youth development designed to address the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce violence. The program is expected to support 1,000 young people in high risk situations this summer, and is in addition to the significant investments in Chicago and around the state in summer jobs for youth.
“Now, more than ever, we must deepen investments in our young people—many of whom have been disconnected from safe, enriching environments that nurture their socioemotional and academic development,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This bold effort will help us greatly in our efforts to create more of these environments, engage with every single child and ensure they have access to as many opportunities to thrive and succeed as possible.”
“Over the past 10 years, CPS has made significant progress in improving the academic and safety outcomes for students, resulting in record high graduation rates and record low exclusionary practices,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Pedro Martinez. “Unfortunately, the closing of in-person learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has set back these efforts. The level of disconnection can be associated with higher levels of young people becoming victims of violence, experiencing mental health issues, and further economic disparities.”
Youth participants named the project: “Back to Our Future.” The program will deliver services that encompass a comprehensive community outreach, mental and behavioral health assessment, clinical therapy, intervention services, personalized goal setting/achievement, guided transition to educational re-connection, and job readiness – including soft skills training, transitional work, and permanent employment options. The goal is to meet disconnected youth “where they are” in their homes and communities. Program providers will help to keep youth safe while reconnecting them to a CPS school or an education completion program in order to build long-term stability.
Through the RPSA, organizations across the state already approved by IDHS with the capacity to expand programming have already received $10 million in “summer expansion” funding to increase services before the summer begins, in addition to this $18M allocation to Chicago Public Schools announced today.
The Reimagine Public Safety Program is investing hundreds of millions in community-based programs across Illinois through a three-year, multi-pronged approach to violence prevention. RPSA funds programs like summer job training, afterschool programming, high-risk intervention services, violence interrupters, case management, affordable mental health care treatment, and more in targeted communities with higher incidences of gun violence. Governor Pritzker recently opened applications for the next phase of funding, with $113 million in available to organizations that apply on a rolling basis.
“We are at a critical moment and this unique approach has the potential to reengage youth who have struggled profoundly during the pandemic. When we support people holistically, they are much more likely to succeed,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services.
“We’re proud to be a part of this partnership that is laser focused on intervening with those most at risk of involvement in community violence. This partnership allows for access to education, employment and mental health resources that enable youth to thrive,” said Chris Patterson, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention.
Reducing Vehicle Hijacking
The Governor is signing three bills that will help support carjacking victims and crack down on vehicle thefts. A number of lawmakers spearheaded the efforts in the General Assembly to put the legislation on the Governor’s desk.
“Car thefts are becoming more frequent and sophisticated with advances in technology,” said State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights). “We must provide the legal remedies that law enforcement need to take down these increasingly organized rings of car thieves.”
“The rise in carjackings is disturbing and yet, arrests are almost never made in these crimes denying these victims justice,” said State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago). “We need to do all we can to ensure that law enforcement agencies are working together to try new ideas to address this issue.”
“Burglars are using new technology to break into and steal cars, including devices that duplicate a signal from a key fob,” said Assistant Majority Leader Jaime Andrade Jr. (D-Chicago). “This is a needed update to our laws that will help prosecutors and ensure that we are effectively holding car thieves accountable for their actions.”
“We’ve seen a significant increase in violent carjackings in recent years that have recklessly endangered too many lives,”said State Representative Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago).“This measure provides needed investment to help law enforcement and prosecutors in the identification, apprehension and prosecution of carjackers. Long-term, it will also help us develop new strategies to combat vehicle hijackings and respond to additional challenges as we deal with this issue comprehensively.”
“When someone has their vehicle stolen, the last thing that should be on their mind is having to deal with red light tickets and other vehicle fines,” said State Representative Eva Dina Delgado (D-Chicago). “This commonsense measure makes it clear that vehicle owners are not liable for these penalties while their vehicle is stolen or hijacked.”
“Our job is to protect victims of violence in all its forms, and we are moving forward to tackle the roots of crime,” said Senate Majority Caucus Whip Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).”To that end, this measure ensures we are not traumatizing victims a second time with fines accumulated after suffering a carjacking. Carjacking victims must not be responsible for penalties and administrative fees imposed on a vehicle while it was not in their possession.”
Supporting Law Enforcement Efforts
Under House Bill 3699, the Illinois Vehicle Hijacking and Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention and Insurance Verification Council is responsible for allocating nearly $6.5 million in grant funding to support law enforcement in their efforts to prevent carjackings and motor vehicle theft. These funds are intended to assist in the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of hijackers while also implementing strategies to reduce carjackings and recover stolen vehicles. This legislation is effective January 1, 2023.
Many modern cars are equipped with key fobs used to open the car remotely and start the engine without turning a key in the ignition, allowing perpetrators to take advantage of convenient systems that can be easily compromised by using relay vehicle theft devices that mimic the car’s key. Under House Bill 601, possession of these devices with the intent to commit a felony or theft is made illegal. This legislation is effective January 1, 2023.
Protection for Victims
Under House Bill 3772, if a victim of a carjacking receives red light or speed camera violations after their vehicle has been hijacked, the court or hearing officer would be able to consider whether the vehicle was hijacked before the violation occurred or not under the control or possession of the vehicle owner or lessee at the time of violation. Expenses incurred for the towing and storage of a victim’s vehicle in connection with a crime of violence are reimbursable, to a maximum of $1,000. Administrative fees for a stolen car that was impounded would also be waived if an owner submits proof demonstrating the vehicle was hijacked.
Earlier this month, Governor Pritzker also signed laws reinvigorating the Violent Crime Witness Protection Act and launching a victim-centered co-responder pilot program to pair victims and witnesses with trauma-informed social workers. Last year, Illinois enacted the most comprehensive reform to our state firearms laws in over a generation, including universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.