Photo: Illinois Capitol building
A law awaiting the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn would allow authorities to use RICO anti-racketeering laws against street gangs blamed for up to 80 percent of homicides in Chicago.
The Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law, known as Street Gang RICO, was passed last week by the state’s General Assembly.
If the bill becomes law, gangs will be treated as criminal businesses and both police and prosecutors will be able “to combat the disease and not just the symptoms,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.
“Under our current state laws, we really are only able to prosecute gang crimes as isolated events, and essentially attack the problem one crime at a time,” said Alvarez, whose jurisdiction includes Chicago.
With the new tool, prosecutors will be able to link different crimes committed by a gang into a single case in an effort to dismantle the organization and hold its leaders accountable, she added.
According to police figures, 75-80 percent of the murders in Chicago can be attributed to the activities of some 600 gangs that periodically fall out with one another and resort to violence to settle their differences.
From Jan. 1 through May 27 of this year, 203 murders and 852 street shootouts were reported.
A recent report says that the Latin Kings, Maniac Latin Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Sureño 13 and Vice Lords are the city’s most dangerous gangs.
Greater Chicago has the largest gang population in the United States with approximately 100,000 members, according to the report.
At a Wednesday press conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy that the bloodbath can be contained with the application of Street Gang RICO.
One of the authors of the bill, state Sen. Tony Muñoz, said that 31 states have similar laws. In the case of Illinois, there are more than 60 offenses that can be included in the RICO law ranging from first-degree murder to robbery.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois used federal RICO statutes in the trial of Latin Kings boss Agustin Zambrano, who in January was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Charges under the federal RICO law were also used in 2002 to break up the gang known as The Insane Deuces that was operating in suburban Aurora, Illinois, a city that recently joined several other municipalities in the Chicago area to appeal to the civil courts in an attempt to limit the operations of the gangs.
In lawsuits presented against 35 reputed members of the Latin Kings, prosecutors asked for known gang members to be prohibited from venturing out in public, sitting in a public place, walking along the street, driving or attending parties.
Those who violate the judicial order may be declared in contempt of court and/or fined, and they must also reimburse the city for any damage caused.