Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s bill increasing penalties for juveniles arrested on carjacking charges passed the Illinois House Monday 85-29. On Tuesday, as the measure was poised for final concurrence, the bill’s chief House and Senate sponsors were unable to provide evidence that teenagers are behind the carjacking spike.
SB2339, from Senate Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago), would give judges in juvenile court wide authority to detain minors at length until trial if they are arrested on carjacking charges.
The measure also throws up a statutory roadblock for juvenile advocates. The bill holds “the burden of demonstrating the lack of immediate and urgent necessity shall be on any party that is opposing detention.” Judges are also given authority to order and evaluate psychological testing of the minor, transfer the minor to a state shelter, and order them into counseling — all before a trial.
Additions in SA1 are not age-specific and do not address carjacking. They instead create new requirements for the collection of DNA samples when a person is arrested on charges relating to sexual assault. In SA2, Muñoz adds new language defining how law enforcement and prosecutors would infer the person in a stolen vehicle knows it’s stolen: Officials would consider whether there are “surrounding facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the vehicle or essential part is stolen or converted.”
Neither of Muñoz’ amendments change any of the bill’s original language concerning juvenile pre-trial detention (laid out in Section 5-408 of the current law).
Asked Tuesday whether he had any hard numbers showing teens were behind the rise in carjackings, Muñoz deferred to communications staff. Diana Martinez, of the senate president’s communications department said in an email the numbers came from a Chicago Sun-Times report.
“The juvenile portion of SB 2339 was included at the request of Sen. (Bill) Cunningham in response to numbers showing an increase in juveniles committing these types of crimes. There is also a concern that too many juveniles are being released in 24 hours, which may not deter them from committing the crime,” she wrote.
The February article from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Frank Main reports that of the nearly 1,000 carjackings recorded in Chicago last year, police arrested 11 more youths than adults. In total, police caught and arrested 31 adults and 42 juveniles in connection with carjacking crimes.
Of just 29 instances of juvenile catch-and-release arrests, only three were re-arrested on carjacking charges.
When this was pointed out and Martinez was asked which numbers Cunningham possessed “showing an increase in juveniles committing these types of crimes,” Martinez quoted a portion of Main’s article which does not specify carjacking, but broadly counts all gun-related juvenile arrests.
“About 700 juveniles were arrested in Chicago in connection with all types of gun-related crimes during the first seven months of 2017. Those crimes ranged from murder to armed robbery to carjacking to unlawful possession of a firearm. Of those 700 juveniles, 42 percent were arrested again. Of those arrests, half were for offenses involving guns,” she quoted.
Andrade faced similar pushback on the measure from House colleagues. He said he filed HA1 to remove the portion of the bill which dealt with juveniles.
On the House floor Monday, Andrade asked members to “Please remember Amendment 1 removed the detention for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. I know people have mentioned that but they’ve removed the detention for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. That is not in the bill in its current state.”
But Andrade’s amendment keeps the same juvenile detention practices for all the other charges in the bill, leaving the language largely unchanged. While “possession of stolen motor vehicle” was removed from the list of charges triggering youth lock-up, there is still a list, and the list still places “the burden of demonstrating the lack of immediate and urgent necessity… on any party that is opposing detention.”
When asked Tuesday whether witnesses or proponents had provided lawmakers any data to prove that juveniles were the cause of rising carjackings, Andrade said he had only been given general police interaction data which was not specific to juveniles, nor specific to carjackings.
Asked for the origin of the general police encounter numbers, Andrade suggested Cook County law enforcement and prosecutors may be able to provide the information but said “I don’t know where they came from.”
Meanwhile, the City of Chicago’s own public safety data on carjackings shows 937 incidents recorded in 2017. 375 of those did not involve a weapon. Only 70 arrests were made. That’s a clearance rate of about 7.5 percent. With such a low number of overall arrests for carjackings split between juveniles and adults, it is difficult to determine which age group is leading the trend.
Andrade’s own district has seen a large share of the roughly 1,000 carjackings from the past year. He was prepared to introduce his own legislation to tackle the issue when he learned of Emanuel’s effort.
“I actually went to them. They already had the idea of introducing it and I actually saw the mayor at some event,” Andrade said. “So when I saw, I said ‘Listen, I’m going to be introducing legislation.’ He said ‘We have legislation too.’ And so they said ‘Would you carry our legislation?’ So that’s how that happened.”
House Democratic Conference Chairman Jay Hoffman, of Chicago, voted to support the measure. Asked Tuesday whether he had received any data pointing to juveniles as the source of the crime, he said he had only been given a fact sheet on the measure. The bill’s primary sponsors were not able to supply The Daily Line with that fact sheet or confirm its existence.
GOP Rep. Steve Andersson, of Geneva, opposed the measure during its Monday passage through the House.
“We are changing the nature of criminal law and how we prosecute people with this bill. There has been a philosophy about the law and, especially about criminal law, since time immemorial. And that is that we would rather see 10 guilty people go free than imprison one innocent man. This bill dumps that on its head,” Andersson said.
“When you do that with minors, now we’re going to put them in jail at least for 40 hours, possibly longer. Every study anywhere has shown that the more often we incarcerate our youth, the more likely they’re going to become a part of that system. So we’re exposing them to the very virus we want to avoid.”
Asked Tuesday whether proponents of the measure had offered him any data indicating youth offenders were driving the increase in carjackings, Andersson said he had not been offered any.
Stephanie Kollmann, policy director of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, said carjacking rates are rising all over the country — not just in Chicago — for a variety of reasons.
“What is really frustrating is there is no public data about what the city is claiming is an uptick,” Kollmann said of the juvenile-driven crime claims. “It’s a really troubling response to what seems to be a problem that law enforcement itself does not have a community development handle on, at least in terms of their public communications on why this is happening, why this is suddenly an issue.”
“It absolutely will negatively impact juvenile justice and safety,” Kollmann said. “I think it is going to result in constitutional class-action litigation.”
The Senate Criminal Law Committee cleared the House amendment 10-0 on a motion to concur. The Senate is expected to take up final concurrence Wednesday, before the bill may be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner for action.