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VanPelt-GangWitnessSenator Patricia Van Pelt’s plan to help victims and witnesses of gang crime passed a key Senate committee earlier today.

The legislation, House Bill 1139, establishes the Gang Crime Witness Protection Program Fund, which will assist victims and witnesses who are actively aiding in the prosecution of gang members. The funds may be used to help pay temporary living costs, moving expenses, rent and other expenses of relocation. 

“We need to keep our neighborhoods safe and stop gang violence,” said Van Pelt. “Part of the solution to this problem is making sure witnesses can testify without fear of retribution.”

Gang activity is a major cause of crime in Chicago and specifically in Senator Van Pelt’s 5th District. Gang activity in Chicago rose by 25 percent from 2009-2012. In 2012 there were 506 murders; this total is up from 435 in 2011. Gang members were responsible for 61 percent of all homicides in 2011.

“In these difficult prosecutions we need to make sure witnesses are willing to tell the authorities everything they know about criminal activity,” Van Pelt explained. “This fund will provide support for people who help law enforcement solve these challenging problems.”

The legislation, which passed the House 112-0, now awaits a vote on the Senate floor.