Gun offenders in Chicago could soon be required to provide police with personal information including their photos and addresses as early as next month. A city council committee approved changes to the current law Thursday, proposed by Alderman Ed Burke (14th).
“Shouldn’t mom and dad, when they are arranging for a playdate with their child’s classmate, and that child might be going over to the classmate’s house, shouldn’t mom and dad have the opportunity to check whether or not a gun offender might be registered at that address,” Burke said.
“Likewise, when a Chicago cop rolls up to an address... shouldn’t that officer be able to check on his computer to see whether or not a gun offender is registered at that address... this is an attempt to take what has proven to work with sex offender registry laws and move it to a new level with gun offender registry laws.”
Burke said the new proposed ordinance would serve to “cast a wider net” to encompass any violent crime with a firearm including, kidnapping, assault, robbery, vehicular-hijacking and a wide ranges of other violent crimes.
“There is evidence that gun offender registry laws have a deterrent effect on people who might be tempted to commit gun crimes again,” Burke said.
Offenders who live in Chicago would be required to register their name and any aliases used, birthdate, height, weight, eye color, driver’s license number and provide a photo as well.
They would also be required to provide their place of employment and details about their conviction as well. All the information would be available to the public online. Offenders would also have to report to police every six months.
Burke said other states like New York and Baltimore have been successful using similar laws. Baltimore’s criminal justice office reported that fewer than five percent of the 1,100 plus gun offenders whose names were on it’s registry, have been rearrested on new gun charges.
“That seems rather compelling,” Burke said.
The current gun registry ordinance was finally implemented in July of 2010 after being passed over many times since Burke first introduced the idea in 2006. But since it’s implementation, only 584 people have registered with the Chicago Police Department.
Tom Byrne, Chief of Detectives for the Chicago Police Department said he thinks this is because a lot of offenders are still in jail.
Burke said his proposed changes to the existing law would hopefully boost that number now that all gun offender’s would be required to register with police. Under the current law, only those convicted of unlawful use or possession of a weapon are considered gun offenders.
But former Chicago police officer, Alderman Willie Cochran (20th) raised concerns over whether the police department have enough manpower to take on the surge of registrants.
“What I fear here is this, there are a lot of offenses here and with the number of offenses we’re talking about here, we haven’t even done any calculations on how many more people we would be anticipating having to service as a result of this,” Cochran said.
“If we pass this and we have a situation where now we have pulled 10,000 more bodies, 15,000 more that are required for the police department to satisfy these needs, what kind of situation does that put us in... if we get to a point where we have too many and we can’t address it, then it puts the city of Chicago and the police department in a quandary for an ordinance that we passed that we cannot accommodate.”
Chief Byrne said that is an issue that his department will have to stay on top of. But he said he is still confident that the revised ordinance can be implemented.
“Having these registrants, knowing who there are helps policemen on the street, there’s officer safety issues and I think we will get the needed resources to get the job done,” Byrne said.
Any convicted offenders would now have up to five days, revised from the current 48 hours, after their release from prison to register with police.
Violators would face fines of up to $500 a day or six months in prison for failing to register.