Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez believes an Illinois law signed Monday will help prosecutors fight street gang crime by giving them the legal tools to prosecute leaders in the top ranks of gangs.
The "Street Gang RICO" act will allow government lawyers to go beyond prosecuting low-level gang members for a single crime, as they do now, and target high-ranking gang leaders for a pattern of crimes or multiple crimes using anti-racketeering laws, according to a statement released by her office.
“This new law will require fundamental changes in the way that state prosecutors approach gang crimes because the crime of racketeering has not existed under Illinois law in any meaningful shape or form,” Alvarez said.
Locally, Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki said he has not heard any details from the state's attorney's office yet.
"All I can comment on at this point is that any law that makes it tougher for gangs to operate their unlawful activity is helpful in the police mission," he said.
In Morton Grove, police department Chief Mark Erickson said, "The Morton Grove Police Department supports any anti-crime initiative that will assist us in disrupting criminal gang activity.
"For too long these gang leaders, who usually don’t live within the communities that are affected by their actions, have been able to direct criminal activity without serious consequence."
Patch has asked the Cook County Sheriff's Police for comment, and will update this story when they respond.
Police reports from Niles and surrounding towns i, and police have voiced concerns about west of Niles and north of Park Ridge.
Painting big picture of gang crime
Alvarez said the law will enable prosecutors to identify patterns in multiple gang-related offenses in order to prosecute gang leaders. It will also allow those lawyers to join different organized crime offenses and different offenders into a single court proceeding.
“Prior to the signing of this bill, state prosecutors were typically only able to charge individual gang crimes and rarely, if ever, were able to prosecute and hold gang leaders accountable for the organized activities of the street gang and its rank-and-file members,” Alvarez said.
Law will target various illegal activities
The “Street Gang RICO” law will target gang organizations engaged in a pattern of crimes involving violence such as illegal weapons, sex-offenses, terrorism, and drug trafficking, according to Alvarez' office.
Prosecutors can use it to allow judges and juries to hear and see a complete picture of the overall criminal activity of the gang, her office said.