CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announced $21 million in grants to law enforcement agencies to combat a rise in carjackings and car thefts statewide.
The funding comes from the Illinois Vehicle Hijacking and Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention and Insurance Verification Council. More than half is earmarked for the Illinois State Police and Chicago Police Department.
“There is no single solution, but these grants give law enforcement needed financial resources, which will provide a greater sense of focus and effort to recover stolen vehicles and prevent carjackings that have been occurring all too frequently throughout our state,” said Giannoulias. “People doing something so routine as getting in their car and driving shouldn’t have to fear that they’ll be robbed of their vehicle at gunpoint. Working together, we will continue to not only make our roads safer but also our communities, neighborhoods and business districts.”
Giannoulias was carjacked with his baseball teammates, in 1998, ABC 7 reported. “It was a brutal experience. It leaves a scar you never forget,” he said. “I hate the thought of anyone else going through that.”
The money will be used for license plate readers, helicopters, tracking devices, GPS software and other technology.
More than 1,600 armed carjackings were reported in Chicago in 2022, the most in over 20 years. The Chicago Tribune reported auto thefts in Chicago are up 55 percent in 2022 compared to the year before, making Chicago the top city for car thefts last year.
With certain Kia and Hyundai models the most at risk, Illinois has seen a 767% increase in vehicle thefts over the last year.
Last week, attorney generals from 23 states, including Wisconsin and Illinois, issued a joint letter to Kia and Hyundai over rampant thefts of vulnerable car models.
Nationwide, teen “Kia Boyz” thieves have been stealing cars and taking them to perform dangerous stunts, light them on fire, or commit other crimes and boast about it on social media.
Police have said certain 2011-2021 Kia models and 2015-2021 Hyundai models have a security flaw that kids are able to exploit using a USB cable.
Illinois passed three new laws that took effect this year to prevent vehicle thefts and carjackings.
The first law makes it illegal to possess anything that unlocks or starts a car–other than a key fob– without permission of the owner. Such devices are considered burglary tools, the law states.
Another law ensures that carjacking victims are not liable for violations or fees involving their stolen vehicles.
The third provision provides grants and financial support to municipalities to assist with the identification, apprehension and prosecution of carjackers and the recovery of stolen vehicles.