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Measure addressing cold cases could further stress Illinois police departments

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(The Center Square) – Illinois legislators and gun-control advocates gathered outside the Capitol and pushed for legislation that aims to address the review process of homicide cold cases. Law enforcement groups are not yet on board.

House Bill 1210 would allow the surviving family members of cold case victims to file an application to request a new investigation if it would result in new investigative leads.

State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, is the bill’s sponsor. The measure requires police departments to review families of homicide victims’ applications within six months and it requires the person reviewing the application not to have worked on the case in the past.

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, said there’s just not “enough manpower” to do what the bill is requiring. Cabello, a law enforcement officer, said Buckner’s bill requires departments to have an officer for every 60 homicides.

“I don’t believe Chicago has the manpower to do this. The times we review these [homicide cold cases] are when we receive new information and it could be just a small piece of information and then we will go ahead and look through that,” Cabello told The Center Square. “The amount of work that is done reviewing a homicide investigation is almost as much as doing the actual homicide investigation.”

Two out of three murders committed in Chicago go unsolved, according to an NPR report.

According to Wirepoints, city of Chicago data for 2022 reveals that arrests were made for 28% of homicides. There were 725 homicides in 2022.

Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group, joined legislators like state Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, outside the Capitol in Springfield on Tuesday to push for the measure.

“We have heard from constituents from across the state who feel left out and feel there is more work to be done,” Hirschauer told The Center Square. “I think if we can work together with law enforcement to give them the tools and technology, a lot of times that’s funding we need to work on, to make them feel as though they can provide these services for victims and their families.”

When asked if increased regulations on police have created the problems surrounding cold cases being reviewed, Hirschauer said “absolutely not.”

“These cold cases are from decades ago,” said Hirschauer. “We’re working together to move forward and help victims.”

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association is opposed to HB1210, also known as the Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act.

Hirschauer said the sponsor of the bill is working on negotiations with opponents.

“I feel like we all have the same aim, which is solving crimes and interrupting the cycle of violence and keeping our communities safe. I believe we can get to a compromise and we have to because we have heard from victims across the state that unsolved homicides aren’t only painful for families but they perpetuate the cycle of violence,” said Hirschauer. “This is a huge step in ending gun violence.”

Cabello said there’s already a supervisor who manages detectives and the supervisor is well informed about what is going on with the investigations.

“You have got many people doing many different aspects [in the investigation] to try and solve the case, if all that work is already done and there’s no new information to follow up on leads, I just don’t understand what we are trying to do here,” said Cabello. “It’s honorable what he [Buckner] is trying to do to help these folks who tragically lost somebody in a violent homicide. If there’s no new information there’s nothing more for the police departments to do.”

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