Carjacking Is So Chronic in Illinois That It Needs Its Own Hotline

Written by Brian Wencel

Recently, the Illinois House and Senate unanimously passed a bill to help victims of carjacking. HB 2245, if signed by Governor Pritzker, will require all car manufacturers that sell in Illinois to have their own 24/7 hotline. This hotline, which will be run by the manufacturers themselves, will be used primarily by law enforcement to find stolen vehicles’ locations. If the vehicle is found, the bill will force car manufacturers to provide the location to law enforcement.

At first, I was glad that Illinois finally seems to be taking steps to crack down on crime in our state. To a certain degree, I still think this bill will bring positive change for Illinois. But the more I think about it, this bill probably will not be the crackdown we need.

Most people would assume that this new hotline would be used to a) find the vehicle, b) return it to its rightful owner, and c) arrest whoever was responsible for the theft in the first place. But knowing how Illinois works, this third part will likely be left out of the equation.

This bill helps the victims of carjacking, but it doesn’t do much to solve the problem if it doesn’t make any meaningful changes to our criminal justice system. It’s great that people will be able to have their cars returned rather than being completely out of luck, but does a bill like this really solve the underlying issue? Also, should we be concerned about car manufacturers being forced to give up a car’s location?

It’s no secret that many areas of Illinois are riddled with crime. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most obvious one is that especially in blue states like ours, we don’t seem to arrest criminals anymore, or at least we don’t punish them in accordance with their crimes. There is essentially no disincentive when it comes to committing crimes if a criminal knows he’ll most likely be released in a matter of days or even hours.

This metaphor has been used so many times, but it still holds: the criminal justice system in much of the United States is essentially a revolving door. A criminal will be arrested and then let right back out onto the streets only to be arrested again, and then the cycle continues.

By itself, this bill won’t solve this problem at all. The only thing HB 2245 can do is give a slight disincentive to potential carjackers, but if they know they will most likely be released with minimal consequences, does the deterrent even work? These concerns are the reason I can appreciate this bill as a good first step, but I don’t believe it goes nearly far enough in solving the problems we have with crime in our state.

The other concern I have about the bill is how it requires car manufacturers to disclose a car’s location to law enforcement. While the power granted by the bill could be used for good, I don’t know if we should trust the government with it. It reminds me of “red flag laws,” which sound good since they provide a way to keep criminals from getting guns, but unfortunately, they can easily be abused, sanctioning state overreach.

I don’t necessarily think this law could be abused nearly as much as red flag laws, but knowing that the government can access your car’s location at any time makes me feel a bit uneasy. I want less government intrusion in my life, and this bill certainly doesn’t help with that.

A law like HB 2245 could be used powerfully, but the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that it will. If given some “teeth,” it could be used to get peoples’ vehicles back and serve as a deterrent and major tool to find and arrest criminals. If Pritzker does sign this into law, which he almost certainly will, I hope its capabilities can be used to make some positive change that goes beyond finding stolen vehicles.

It’s sad that we even need a “carjacking hotline” in Illinois, but all we can do now is try and clean up the mess the best that we can.