Calling the practice of property seizure by law enforcement agencies "policing for profit" Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has filed a bill that would overhaul Illinois' civil asset forfeiture laws.
Harmon said in a press release that his Senate Bill 1578 would create accountability and transparency for people trying to retrieve seized property. Asset forfeiture law in Illinois – which, according to the ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Policy Institute, totals about $30 million a year – is currently spread out across 25 different laws that allow police to seize property during the course of a simple traffic stop, according to Harmon.
Law enforcement agencies aren't currently required to return property, even if the owner is not charged or convicted of a crime, according to Harmon. He notes that it also is unclear under current statute whether probable cause is necessary for police to seize property.
"Illinois has allowed a system to take root in which grandparents, for example, can be exploited by the justice system simply because they loaned their only car to a relative whom they didn't realize had a revoked license," Harmon said in the press release. "The next thing they know, that relative is in jail, the car is impounded and they have limited recourse for getting it back."
Harmon says the proposal will:
Remove the financial incentive for police to seize property.
Require probable cause for asset seizure.
Require creation of a searchable public database for seized and forfeited property.
Establish a fund for proceeds of seized property that will be contributed to nonprofit organizations.
Require a conviction before proceeding with forfeiture.
Require seized property be returned in five days if the owner is not responsible for the seizure.
A black Calvin Klein jacket containing a black hat and a Samsung cell phone was taken from a coat rack at Grace Episcopal Church, 934 Lake St., sometime between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Feb. 12.
A purse containing car keys, an Illinois driver's license, a black Android cell phone and miscellaneous papers was taken from an employee's locker in the 7000 block of West Roosevelt Road at 7 p.m. on Feb. 13. The estimated loss to the victim, a Chicago resident, was $300.
Criminal damage to property
The double-pane picture window at a building in the 7000 block of West North Avenue was damaged by unknown means sometime between 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 15 and 6:30 a.m. the next day.
A residence in the 600 block of Home Avenue was burglarized sometime between 10 p.m. on Feb. 12 and 6:27 a.m. the next day. The burglar forced in the rear door of the residence and stole a purse containing house and car keys, an Illinois ID, a wallet, miscellaneous cards and a blood sugar meter kit. The loss was an estimated $2,000.
Burglary to motor vehicle
A 1999 Chevy Tracker was burglarized in the 100 block of Superior Street sometime between 11 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 8 a.m. the next day. The burglar entered through an unlocked door and took a wallet and a duffel bag. The loss was an estimated $70.
Two dumpster fires were reported at 11:54 p.m. on Feb. 13, one in the rear of the 100 block of Madison and another in the area. The Oak Park Fire Department was dispatched and struck out the fire in the alley. The second fire was struck out by the Oak Park Police Department with a fire extinguisher.
These items, obtained from the Oak Park and River Forest police departments, came from reports, Feb. 11-15, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Anyone named in these reports has only been charged with a crime and cases have not yet been adjudicated. We report the race of a suspect only when a serious crime has been committed, the suspect is still at large, and police have provided us with a detailed physical description of the suspect as they seek the public's help in making an arrest.
Compiled by Timothy Inklebarger