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updated: 2/28/2011 4:05 PM

Farnham introduces two bills to fight gang- and drug-related crime

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Police departments across the state one day could see reimbursement for money spent apprehending drug dealers and illegal drug users from the offenders themselves.

A bill being discussed in a House Judiciary Committee Thursday would make this reimbursement a condition of parole or probation for convicted criminals.

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State Rep. Keith Farnham filed HB1258 based on an idea that came out of the Elgin Police Department. Farnham, an Elgin Democrat, also filed a second bill this month (HB3033), aimed at creating a tool for departments trying to eradicate gang crimes.

Elgin police officer Chris Jensen first approached Lt. Jeff Adam in November with the idea for what is now House Bill 1258. Jensen had witnessed a decade worth of spending on gang-related investigations and arrests in his time on the Elgin Gang Unit.

"Why should the taxpayers have to foot that bill?" Jensen asked.

If the bill makes it to the governor's desk all people convicted of or put under supervision for manufacturing or delivering marijuana or methamphetamine would have to pay for any emergency response used to apprehend them. That includes officer pay and overtime.

"If we can make the people who are costing us with their illegal activity pay ... every citizen in Elgin benefits from that," Elgin Mayor Ed Schock said.

The same holds true for every community across the state allocating resources to fight these types of crime.

Elgin recently purchased an armored vehicle using funds from a similar account called a drug asset forfeiture fund.

The second bill, HB3033, would give the state Department of Juvenile Justice authority to seek funding from the U.S. Department of Justice for a gang prevention and intervention grant program. The program would give communities the chance to compete for funds. Communities that have seen an increase in gang violence and have committed to addressing the problem as a high priority will be given preference for funding.

The bill idea was recommended by Schock.

"I consider it a grass-roots piece of legislation that came from the community," Farnham said.

The two elected officials said Monday the goal of the legislation is to make Illinois appear more deserving of federal funds. Having the law on the books will be a public declaration of the state's commitment to fighting gang-related crimes.

Farnham's staff hopes the bills will both be voted on before the end of this legislative session.

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