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New bills aim to help victims and witnesses of violent crime

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth from Peoria spoke alongside advocates Susan Stanton, left, and Aubry Stapleton.
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth from Peoria spoke alongside advocates Susan Stanton, left, and Aubry Stapleton.

A new bill in the General Assembly would establish new emergency response protocols, in which a crisis call to 911 would send the police and a social worker to provide mental health services.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, amended a bill Friday to establish the Co-Responder Unit pilot program in four cities in Illinois, including Peoria, East St. Louis, Springfield, and Waukegan.

Gordon-Booth said support for survivors of violent crime is what will heal communities.

“Law enforcement has to be a part of the conversation specific to public safety, but we have to center the voices of survivors of violent crime,” said Gordon-Booth.

Earlier this week, Gordon-Booth joined other Democratic lawmakers at an event to support survivors of crime. The event, organized by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, called for change and the addition of victim-centered trauma services but did not name any specific legislation.

This bill is a part of a package introduced Friday morning. Also included in the package is a bill to increase funding for Illinois’ witness protection program, introduced by Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago.

“Once someone pulls that trigger–once they commit that murder–they are much more susceptible they are to do it again, if they never get caught. I don't think we should overstate or overlook the significant impact of the witness protection program,” said Gordon-Booth in support of Peters’ bill.

Peters’ bill would allocate an additional $20 million for the witness protection program and establish an anonymous tip line, which Democrats say could save lives of witnesses of crime by ensuring criminals get caught.

Gordon-Booth's stepson was killed in an act of gun violence in 2014, and the case was only solved after a witness came forward.

Other bills in the package include another bill sponsored by Peters to create a Crime Reduction Task Force, as well as a bill to establish grant funding for risk reduction community programs sponsored by Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago.

The General Assembly plans to adjourn the spring session on April 8, so lawmakers will need to move quickly for these bills to pass within the 102nd General Assembly.

Maggie Strahan is a graduate student in the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois.