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As of January 2023, the State of Illinois will evoke the controversial ‘Safe-T Act’. This act was introduced by Governor J.B. Pritzker earlier in the year. When in effect, it will make Illinois the first state to eliminate cash bail. This means a defendant can only be detained in pretrial confinement when prosecutors prove to a judge that the defendant is a flight risk or poses a specific, real and present threat to any person or the community.
We spoke with Chrisman Police Chief, Tom Dolan to get his take on the new laws.
“I don’t know a single cop who isn’t extremely concerned about it,” Dolan told us. “The Safe-T Act is not going to make people safer. It’s going to make it much easier for people to get out of jail and in some cases, make it impossible for us to be able to put them in jail.”
This will also make some offenses, Class B and C misdemeanors no longer arrest-able. Offenders will be issued a citation with a Notice to Appear for a court date, which is typically three weeks from the time the offense took place. In most cases, there will no longer be a bond requirement for release, with the exception of violent crimes against persons.
“In my opinion, the Safe-T Act is going to give them more and more opportunity,” Dolan said. “This can’t be good for our people.”
The Notice to Appear is most commonly given with simple traffic citations in lieu of posting any bond. They get the ticket and are free to leave. This now will become the norm for multiple previously arrest-able violations.
Many State’s Attorney’s believe that for many offenses, even a warrant for an FTA (Failure to Appear) will not be issued. Instead, it will become a Civil Proceeding where the police are basically asking the offender to please show up for their court date.
“Ironically, once we book them, it’s likely that they will be immediately released with, you guessed it, a Notice to Appear,” Dolan said. “Hopefully at that point, they might be held over to see a judge, who might set a bond since they didn’t show up for court last time. This will have to play out for us to see how it’s actually going to work. I’m not optimistic though.”
Another major problem is that in many cases, even in such serious crimes as Domestic Battery, Aggravated Battery and Aggravated DUI, the person has to be released unless the State’s Attorney can successfully argue that the offender won’t show up for court or is a danger to the public and not just the victim.
“It’s going to make it much harder to keep offenders away from the victims and the suspects will have the opportunity to continue doing crimes until their court date, which many don’t show up for anyway.”
Dolan feels that the majority of the crimes being committed will take place in the larger cities, such as Chicago, where crime seems to take place by the hour. “We may avoid the worst of it,” Dolan said. “It’s already bad (in bigger cities) and it’s only going to get worse. Criminals will seize the opportunity to do what they do, knowing they won’t be arrested.”
An offense that has been brought to his attention that could take place in our area is Trespassing and Disorderly Conduct Charges. As of now, the offender could be arrested. After January 1st, the police will not be able to take them off of your property. Police will have to cite them and give them a Notice to Appear.
“In other cases where we will still have the authority to arrest them and take them to jail, they’ll be booked, then immediately released with a notice. Meaning they will be able to come right back and do it all over again. It’s insanity.”
The possibility of criminals traveling from larger cities to small towns to offend is unlikely, due to it possibly becoming an inconvenience when it would be easier to just offend in their own neighborhood.
“If they do, this will be a very good argument for the Neighborhood Watch program,” Dolan said. “What we can do when we arrive will change, but you certainly want us to get there as quickly as possible.”
Problems bigger cities are also seeing is the ‘Defund the Police’ movement. This has backfired in many cases with crimes rising as those on the force is decreasing. This defunding has affected both small and large departments and they are having a very hard time keeping people, much less being able to afford more officers.
“Fewer cops, more crime. It’s reasonable to expect that budgets will have to increase to try and match the need for increased coverage. We will have to see what happens.”
Another issue that the police are having is the possibility of citizens taking the law into their own hands once things change. Illinois is one of the states that does not have the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. This law allows a person to use force if they believe someone is unlawfully entering their home or vehicle and many Castle Doctrine laws allow deadly force against intruders. By law, citizens of Illinois are only able to use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves, someone else, or defend their home or other property.
“This is a wild card. I can see home scenarios where law abiding citizens will have more power on their own property to stop a crime than we will have with this new law.”
Dolan encourages citizens to do their research on the laws to know what you can and can not do. Understand when the Use of Force is legal and when it is not and to stay vigilant. If you see something, tell someone. Make sure to call 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency that’s happening now or the Edgar County Non-Emergency line at 217-465-4166 for non emergency reporting.
“This way, you’ll always get a dispatcher who knows if an officer or deputy is available,” Dolan said. “Have the means to protect yourself and the wisdom to know when it’s appropriate.”
Chief Dolan also encourages citizens to have good lights at night and keep everything locked up. Ring doorbells and other camera devices are great for providing a deterrent and evidence after the fact.
Though the laws will change, Dolan and the Chrisman Police Department and surrounding departments will be doing their best to protect it’s citizens.
“Rest assured, all of us are going to continue to do our job and everything we can do to help keep people safe,” Dolan said.
“We’re just going to have to roll with things as we figure this out, and hopefully, cooler minds will prevail and they’ll work to overturn the craziest parts of this forthcoming act.”