State Police Can Relocate Witnesses in Gang Trials
Janota, Laura, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Laura Janota Daily Herald Staff Writer
Witnesses who inform on street gangs in Illinois now can receive special protections because of a law Gov. Jim Edgar signed Thursday.
An 18-month, $1 million pilot program that primarily would relocate witnesses and victims of gangs now will be administered by the Illinois State Police.
Through the program, county prosecutors and the Illinois Attorney General's office would be eligible for grants for relocations, name changes and other witness protection purposes.
"State prosecutors told us over and over that they really have no way to adequately protect witnesses," said Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan of Bensenville.
Ryan, who led the governor's Commission on Gangs, said there's no way to know yet how many informants, witnesses and victims will need or receive protection through the new program.
The program is needed most in downstate counties that have budgeted little money for witness-protection purposes, he said.
The law Edgar signed from the Commission on Gangs, also will:
- Establish a Street Gang Criminal Drug Conspiracy law that carries mandatory sentences of up to 60 years for gang leaders convicted of major drug dealing. Current maximum penalties are up to 30 years. …