Keith Pekau (R), a congressional candidate and the current mayor of Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago, warned that crime in his state could “spiral out of control” when a new law takes effect in January.
Reportedly, the new law is designed to overhaul the state’s criminal justice system and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
Mayor Keith Pekau believes the law is “dangerous,” saying, “When I said that this is the most dangerous law I’ve ever seen, I believe that.”
Pekau, who is running for Congress in Illinois’ 6th District, made the statement during an interview with Fox News.
According to a Fox News report, the new law, titled the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, “changes multiple parts of Illinois’ justice system.”
Specifically, the law eases restrictions and safety provisions by ending cash bail, limiting how flights determine whether defendants are flight risks and allowing defendants under electronic monitoring to leave home for 48 hours before they can be charged with escape.
The legislation was signed into law by Gov. JB. Pritzker (D) last year.
Pekau told Fox News: “I don’t think we know what’s coming from this,” “I think we can project that if criminals are allowed to run free, and police officers can’t protect citizens, citizens are going to start protecting themselves and take the law into their own hands.”
Three former Illinois justice system officials critical of the bill complained in a Chicago Tribune op-ed that the 764-page SAFE-T Act moved through both chambers of the Illinois legislature in just seven hours — without formal hearings or debate or input from stakeholders.
Pekau told Fox News: “The whole thing is concerning to me because it was just a potpourri of everything, and it didn’t bring into consideration law enforcement, judges or all the stakeholders in place,” “It was basically to allow criminals to go free.”
The law also favors repeat offenders as it implements a higher standard regarding when a defendant can be detained for serious crimes, including second-degree murder, aggravated battery, arson and kidnapping.
Pekau complained: The reforms being passed around the country revolve around the idea that “the criminal shouldn’t be held.”
“I think that’s absurd,” he added.
Proponents of the law argue that the SAFE-T Act will combat systemic racism — citing a 2022 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report that claimed that “minorities disproportionately face higher rates of pretrial detention.”
Proponent Kareem Butler, a pretrial justice fellow of the Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts, told The Daily North Western:
“We’d be ending wealth-based jailing and restoring the presumption of innocence in the courtroom, which is something that is really under fire and it is not valued under our current system.”
Pekau also highlighted how the law would reduce trespassing penalties — reclassifying the crime from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B. He warned that as a result, “police officers will not be able to physically remove non-violent trespassers from a property.”
“In Orland Park,” Pekau said, “our police officers would say if someone’s trespassing, the best tool they have to get someone to leave willingly is to say ‘you’re trespassing, please leave or we will arrest you.'”
“Well, now they can’t arrest, they can only write a ticket,” Pekau added. “So, they get to stay in that business, on your property, at your house, etc.”
Pekau believes the law will lead people to believe police officers are ineffectual and will prompt individuals to take matters into their own hands.
“We create potential anarchy because law enforcement can’t do their job and then people feel that they have to do that job,” Pekau said. “People aren’t trained in the use of force. They’re not trained to de-escalate situations.”
“Lots of bad things can happen out of this, and it could potentially spiral out of control relatively quickly. I really hope that this thing gets repealed. I hope the voters wake up and do the right thing. Their votes matter.”
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