Senator Patricia Van Pelt speaks on the Senate floorSPRINGFIELD – A measure from Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) that would require state agencies to prioritize funding for communities that have high levels of crime, incarceration and community violence advanced out of the Senate today with strong bipartisan support.

“It’s clear that business as usual isn’t enough to prevent crime and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Van Pelt said. “Neighborhoods hit hardest by crime and violence need special attention in order to address the root cause of violence. Prioritizing funding for areas with high levels of violence and crime is the best way to help struggling communities rebuild.”  

The Safe and Full Employment (SAFE) Zone Act creates a process to identify high-violence communities and prioritize state dollars to go to those communities to fund investment to address the underlying causes of crime and violence.

“Violence is a public health crisis,” Van Pelt said. “In order to address this crisis, we need to make sure we’re strategically directing funds to communities that are hardest hit by violence. The SAFE Zone Act addresses the inequity in the distribution of funds and uses data to determine which neighborhoods are most in need of priority funding.”

HB 5308 creates a board of state and local officials and agencies to coordinate and maximize existing state programs to implement the SAFE Zone Act. The measure calls for the development of an evidence-based, community-designed investment plan through local economic growth councils.


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Category: Press Releases

Senator Patricia Van Pelt introduces her measure to reform gang databases during a press conferenceSPRINGFIELD – Use of controversial gang databases by police would be reformed under legislation introduced today by State Senator Patricia Van Pelt.

“My goal is to reform the use of gang databases so that we can ensure the data is accurate and can be effective in helping reduce gang-related activity while still protecting people’s rights.” Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, said. “We need to make sure people aren’t being added to the gang database when they shouldn’t be, something that has proven to be problematic for countless Chicagoans over the years.”

The legislation was crafted after experts, advocates and community members voiced their concerns at an April 20 Senate committee hearing about the Chicago Police Department’s use of gang databases and its effect on communities.

“For too long, law enforcement has operated flawed databases with little oversight and questionable reasoning for adding names to the lists,” Van Pelt said. “This legislation will provide more oversight and help protect the rights of innocent individuals who shouldn’t be on the list.”

The use of gang databases to track individuals labeled as suspected gang members has been called into question in recent months after investigative reports found that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans have been added to gang databases.

Within the demographic of young black men aged 20-29, 53,418 (up to 89% of population) are in the Chicago Police Department's gang database.

Senate Bill 275 does the following
–    Creates rules around how local law enforcement agencies handle shared gang databases.
–    Requires the Illinois State Police to create a system of notifying people they’ve been added to a local law enforcement agency shared gang database. Requires the state police to create an appeals process so that people’s names can be removed if they’ve been added incorrectly and allows a person to petition the court if their appeal is denied by the state police.
–    Creates the Gang Database Technical Advisory Task Force, which will advise the Illinois State Police on rules, oversight, operation and implementation of this act.
–    Requires that all shared gang databases in Illinois be frozen on Jan. 1, 2019. No one can be added to the gang databases until the controlling law enforcement agency has purged all people who should not be on the list and the Illinois attorney general has certified this has been done.
–    Requires the Illinois State Police to audit all shared gang databases to certify that the people who’ve been added to them should be on them.
–    Limits gang database access to only law enforcement and their support staff, and restricts the information from being used in employer background checks or by federal immigration officials.

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Category: Press Releases

Senator Patricia Van Pelt speaks on the Senate floorSPRINGFIELD – Minors arrested for certain crimes would have greater protections during police interrogations under legislation sponsored by Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), which advanced out of the Senate Criminal Law Committee Tuesday night.

“According to the Juvenile Justice Initiative, nearly 80 percent of minors don’t understand the Miranda warnings, with the least understood warning being the right to an attorney,” Van Pelt said. “We must reform our interrogation laws and protect the rights of minors.”

Senate Bill 1265 requires that any person under the age of 18 who is charged with murder or sex offenses have an attorney present during all interrogations.

In 2016, Van Pelt championed the legislation that extended these rights to minors under the age of 15 who are charged with murder or sex offenses. That law took effect last year. While Senate Bill 2370 was a victory for juvenile justice, Van Pelt said she believes we must do more to protect youth.

“Sixty-two percent of minors believe they can be penalized by a judge for remaining silent during interrogations. This is unacceptable,” Van Pelt said. “When citizens don’t understand their rights, injustice is served.”

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Category: Press Releases

SPRINGFIELD – Chicago Police Department officials opted last minute not to send a representative to today’s Senate Public Health Committee hearing on CPD’s collection and use of information in the department’s gang databases.

“I’m very disappointed about CPD’s last-minute decision not to testify at today’s hearing,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago, chair of the Senate Public Health Committee).  “There’s no shortage of questions and criticisms on how the CPD collects and uses the information in its gang databases, but CPD officials have continued to claim the databases are valuable tools. Today was their chance to address the critics and make their case for the database and they chose not to show up.”

The use of gang databases to track individuals labeled as suspected gang members has been called into question in recent months. More than 128,000 people are in the department’s gang database, 95 percent of whom are people of color.

Chicago Police Department officials notified the committee just hours before the hearing that they were no longer going to send a representative to answer questions because of legal reasons.

“The stories we heard today from activists and experts raise major concerns and even more questions about CPD’s gang databases,” Van Pelt said. “I’m calling for a moratorium on the use of gang databases until we get answers from CPD.”

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Children and Family Justice Center and the University of Illinois-Chicago, as well as concerned community members and activists, testified at Friday’s hearing.

Van Pelt plans to introduce legislation aimed at reforming the use of gang databases.

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Category: Press Releases
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