SPRINGFIELD – Access to law enforcement’s controversial gang databases would be limited under a measure from State Senator Patricia Van Pelt that passed out of the Senate today.

“For years, law enforcement has been using gang databases with little oversight to how they’re used and who has access to the information,” Van Pelt (D-Chicago) said. “This measure will ensure that database information can’t be used in background checks for employment, housing, licensing and education, which has been one of the biggest problems with the database.”

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.

“Gang databases should be used to crack down on crime, not prevent an innocent person from getting a job or an apartment,” Van Pelt said. “This is a commonsense solution to a problem that never should’ve existed in the first place.”

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

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Category: Press Releases

Senator Patricia Van Pelt speaks on the Senate floorSPRINGFIELD – Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s passage of a balanced budget:

“Tonight, I was proud to reject the funding cuts proposed by Gov. Rauner and instead vote for a responsibly balanced budget that increases funding for programs that help our most vulnerable residents and strengthen our communities.

“This budget increases funding for early childhood and K-12 education by more than $400 million, restores funding to important human service programs like Teen Reach, Redeploy Illinois and community-based violence prevention organizations, invests in life-saving public health initiatives like screening for breast cancer and lead poisoning and gives working families a better shot at sending their kids to college at an affordable price.

“By making responsible cuts to administrative spending, we were able to pass a budget that will help make our neighborhoods safer, keep our children off the streets and provide support for those who need it most.”


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Category: Press Releases

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

Chicago Police CarNPR Illinois - May 14, 2018 | original article

By Sam Dunklau

Illinois legislators are taking up a measure to change the way police gather information for gang databases. It comes after more than a year of controversy surrounding the Chicago Police Department’s data collection practices.

For decades, the Chicago Police Department has kept a running list of people believed to be in one of the city’s gangs. But in the last year, questions have been raised about how the Department goes about adding names. An investigation by ProPublica Illinois showed CPD’s database is riddled with dubious and racially-skewed entries.

State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, says thousands of black men in their 20s are in the gang database. Many were added without warning, and that info shows up in a background check.

“If they are on that list and they have no way of getting off the list, they have no appeals process, it really tears at the fabric of the community because it can destroy people’s future.”

Records obtained by ProPublica Illinois revealed some 128,000 adults are in that database now, 70% of whom are black or 25% of whom are Latino. 11.5% of those adults are 50 years old or older, a few were listed as more than 100 years old.

State Senator Jacqui Collins (D, Chicago) is supporting the legislation. She says someone can be added to the list for something as simple as not showing up to school.

“We want to ensure police have the tools they need to fight crime, but a poorly-kept database is a blunt and ineffective tool that opens the door for many civil rights abuses,” she explained.

Sen. Van Pelt’s bill would change that, requiring the state police to inform people if they’re added to a gang database, and allow them to appeal if they believed they've been wrongly added.

The Chicago Police Department says the measure is reasonable and has pledged to make changes.

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