Proposed new IL law could give Chicago homicide cold cases new life

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, February 7, 2024
New legislation could give Chicago cold cases new life
Supporters of new Illinois legislation say it will help solve more Chicago homicide cases, particularly cold cases.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There is a new Illinois law under consideration that supporters say will help solve more Chicago homicide cases, especially cold cases.

There are two key parts to the legislation. The first allows families with unsolved homicide cases over three years old to request a new review of the case. The second requires the Chicago Police Department to publish more related data.

Rafael Burgos said his 18-year-old daughter Alexandria was sitting in her friend's kitchen when she was struck by a stray bullet. Ten years later, her case remains unsolved.

"She was a bright, beautiful individual with a smile that would light up a room," he said. "It's been heart wrenching."

Hers isn't the only one. Families of unsolved homicide victims joined State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-26th District) as he introduced the new legislation.

"If approved, it will trigger a new investigation, a complete analysis of the case," he said.

Buckner, whose uncle died in a yet-unsolved shooting, said the bill began as a "passion project" in 2019 that has gained new momentum since several advocacy groups have begun supporting it.

In Illinois, less than 19 percent of homicide cases result in an arrest, according to research from the Everytown Survivor Network.

"It's been 8,941 days since my dad was killed, and his murder is still unsolved," said Alicia Schemel with Everytown Survivor Network. "We should all have an answer in our cases as to who killed our person."

Schemel said that while the Chicago Police Department does put out homicide data, more could be shared and more data is needed.

Buckner said the proposed law would require police to release data on the number of homicides that occur in a given month, the number of arrests made in those homicides, and the number of charges filed in those cases.

Low homicide clearance rates are sometimes cited as a key reason for ongoing distrust between police and disadvantaged communities.

In Chicago, police announced last month that in 2023, the department reached a 51.7 percent clearance rate, the highest since 2019. Clearance rates are an oft-maligned metric, as they reflect crimes which occurred in past years but were solved recently.

But some law enforcement advocates are wary of the proposals. Jim Kaitschuk, head of the Illinois Sheriff's Association, said his organization has opposed previous versions of Buckner's cold case bill.

"The intentions are good, but there are a lot of other cases," Kaitschuk said Tuesday.

The bills, Kaitschuk said, would strain sometimes under-resourced law enforcement agencies because they do not provide funding to implement them. He further warned that the bills might adversely impact smaller agencies.

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report