(The Center Square) – Citing a grand jury’s refusal to indict a man on murder charges because of changes in Illinois law, House Republicans are calling for the repeal of the SAFE-T Act.
A Cook County grand jury declined to indict Travis Andrews on a first-degree murder charge that left a woman dead when she was struck by a stray bullet in Austin, a community in Chicago.
During a hearing this week, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said jurors returned indictments against Andrews on weapons charges in the shooting, but not for murder, and cited the SAFE-T Act as the reason. The change in the felony murder law narrows who can be charged with homicide.
During a news conference Wednesday, Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Illinois has become a nearly lawless state with offenders being freed while awaiting trial on violent crimes.
“We need to immediately repeal the failed Democrat law, the SAFE-T Act, before more tragedies occur,” Durkin said. “The SAFE-T Act is a fallacy, it isn’t working, no one is safe today.”
The SAFE-T Act was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. The group has called the GOP’s efforts “racial scare tactics.”
A request for comment from state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, a driving force behind the SAFE-T Act, went unanswered.
Republicans oppose the act’s centerpiece, the elimination of the cash bail system, and other provisions they call anti-police. Cash bail ends in Illinois Jan. 1, 2023.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday found that 75% of surveyed Americans say that “the defunding of police departments” is “a reason that violent crime is increasing in the United States.”
Durkin has also filed a bill that would reform the Prison Review Board, requiring at least five members of the board to have experience as law enforcement officers or prosecutors, among other changes.
State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, said the governor is soft on crime.
“Citing COVID-19, Governor Pritzker has let thousands of inmates out of prison, including murderers and rapists,” Windhorst said. “People of our state deserve safety, and the knowledge that criminals will be held accountable for their actions.”
Crime prevention has dominated the governor’s race, with Republican gubernatorial candidates Richard Irvin and Jesse Sullivan recently releasing television ads blaming the state’s rise in violent crime on Pritzker, a Democrat.
“We have a governor, J.B. Pritzker, who is more concerned about masking children than unmasking criminals,” Durkin said.