Comprehensive gun violence data in Illinois is ‘inaccessible’, state police say
SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to gun violence data, Illinois State Police and, by extension, state lawmakers and the general public don’t get the full picture, the Illinois State Department acknowledged. agency in a report filed with the governor’s office and the state legislature.
The law requires the data to be collected by state police, reported annually to lawmakers, and made available to the public on an online dashboard. It’s the product of the Gun Trafficking Information Act, a provision inserted into a broader 2019 law that requires gun dealers to certify their federal license with the Illinois State Police.
The report is supposed to detail key information relating to firearms used in the commission of crimes, including police reports, the number of people killed in these crimes, where they occurred and where the firearms came from. .
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But in the four years since the law was signed, the state’s top law enforcement agency is still in the dark, telling lawmakers in the February report that “the lack of A centralized, uniform data collection tool for use by all Illinois law enforcement agencies has made it impossible to collect and report all mandatory information. »
The agency reviewed internal and external data sources, but differing systems for case management, report writing, and evidence management between state and local law enforcement agencies resulted in “data collection inconsistent, inaccurate or untranslatable,” the report said.
This acknowledgment of the lack of statewide data on gun crime comes as violent crime remains above pre-pandemic levels and state police prepare to assume further more responsibilities under Illinois’ newly struck semi-automatic weapons ban.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” said Senate Speaker Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the lead sponsor of the 2019 legislation mandating the report. “I encourage the agency to redouble its efforts and I look forward to having a conversation with the administration on how to fulfill this responsibility.
“Complete and accurate information is essential to inform the public and guide policy,” he said.
Governor JB Pritzker’s office declined to comment for this story, referring requests to state police.
ISP, through a spokesperson, declined to make an agency official available for an interview for this story, instead submitting written responses to questions posed by Lee Springfield’s office.
Aside from the lack of information from local law enforcement, state police admitted they don’t even have a clear picture of their own data.
Information currently available to state police includes the number of gun owner identification (FOID) details the agency’s Criminal Investigations Division has conducted and the number of gun seizures. firing and arrests made.
The ISP’s Criminal Investigations Division conducted 564 random FOID enforcement/revocation details in 2022, bringing 2,647 revoked FOID cardholders into compliance. The details were executed to identify and combat gun trafficking and straw buying, the agency said.
State police seized 1,087 firearms and made 597 firearm-related arrests in 2022.
But according to the report, information on firearms offenses reported by the agency’s patrol division – uniformed officers who patrol state roads – is “not systematically collected and does not hold true.” account of potential distortion of data”, such as double reporting of an infringement. .
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said the agency analyzed 63 phantom weapons in 2020 and 180 cases in 2021.
As such, “the information currently available to the ISP represents a small portion of that data that needs to be collected and reported,” the report says.
In written responses and in the report itself, agency officials said information sharing, at least within the state police, should improve with the implementation of a new centralized data collection point for all ISP agents.
The agency has worked with the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology over the past year to develop and implement the Firearms Offense Information, Traffic and Criminal Software Form (TraCS).
More than four years after being mandated to collect information on gun crimes, state police will finally have a streamlined process that will reduce the risk of duplicate or missing entries.
“Use of the TraCS form over the coming year will allow for more accurate measurement reporting not only to law enforcement throughout Illinois, but also to the public,” the spokeswoman said. FAI, Melaney Arnold.
Need another law?
But even if the agency seems to be getting its own house in order, there is still the problem posed by the lack of information from local law enforcement agencies.
The agency said in the report that it “will continue to partner with external Illinois law enforcement agencies to establish a collaborative strategy to identify and implement the most effective and most comprehensive form of mandatory data collection”.
But no concrete measures were identified in the document. And agency officials have suggested that a change in state law may be needed before all law enforcement agencies in the state are on the same page.
“Currently, local law enforcement does not report data to Illinois State Police because they do not collect or provide data in the same way,” Arnold said. “The General Assembly should mandate this from local law enforcement agencies.”
The response presents the challenge often encountered in policymaking to marry the concept and enactment of a law with its implementation.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said the lack of a mechanism in the law to force local agencies to report such data to state police was a sign lawmakers were “posturing.”
“There’s no system to do that,” Pearson said. “It’s kind of like telling someone ‘okay, I want you to go out and start a baseball team… How you do it, who cares. You don’t have the money to do it, but good luck to you.
“The state of Illinois always does things like that,” he said.
Harmon, asked if lawmakers would take steps to ensure the law he sponsored is implemented as intended, signaled his openness to the concept.
“Gun violence is an epidemic. Having complete and accurate information is critical to solving crimes, preventing crimes, and giving the public the information they deserve,” Harmon said. “The Senate stands ready to help the agency turn that responsibility into reality.”
More responsibilities ahead
In a sense, time is running out, because the ISP in a few months will be tasked with collecting even more firearms data as part of the ban on semi-automatic weapons signed by Pritzker in January.
Governor JB Pritzker hugs gun control advocate Maria Pike after signing comprehensive legislation banning military style firearms Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.
BRIAN CASSELLA, CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIA AP
The state’s primary law enforcement agency will be responsible for maintaining a registry of assault weapon serial numbers grandfathered under the law, while providing coordination and strategy statewide regarding firearms intelligence, firearms interdiction, and investigations.
Under the new law, ISPs must define a process for registering grandfathered weapons by October 1. Gun owners would then have until the end of the year to register their guns.
The agency, in a five-page document outlining its 2023 firearms strategy, said it “plans to make necessary system upgrades to comply” with the new law.
It wasn’t immediately clear how much these upgrades, or the new TraCS reporting system, would cost, but it looks like funding would be available.
Pritzker’s proposed budget includes $29.5 million for the State Police Firearms Services Fund, a special fund that collects revenue collected under the state’s concealed carry law and gun dealer certification laws.
According to state law, the ISP may use the funds “to fund any of its lawful purposes, mandates, functions, and duties” under those laws. Over the past two years, the amount spent from the fund has been well below the voted appropriations.
Despite concerns about the agency’s inability to provide mandatory information about gun crimes, Harmon said he’s more confident he’ll be able to fulfill his duties under the new law.
“The administration has been an active partner in crafting this important legislation, and I’m confident it will be a priority for the agency to fulfill its responsibilities under the law,” Harmon said. “I look forward to hearing how he plans to do this at the agency’s budget hearings.”
The assault weapons ban is being challenged in state and federal courts. An appeal of a circuit court decision striking down the law is now before the Illinois Supreme Court. The next hearing in the federal case will be on April 12.
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Contact Brenden Moore at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @brendenmoore13
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