DuPage County State’s Attorney talks SAFE-T Act, crime trends during public safety update

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New numbers show that the pretrial provisions established by the SAFE-T Act are working mostly as intended so far, according to DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin. The controversial legislation was just one of many topics Berlin discussed on Thursday, Nov. 16, during a public safety update at the Cantigny Park Visitors Center.

“The goal is to only detain those defendants that are a threat to the community, or a threat to flee the jurisdiction, they’re not going to show up in court,” Berlin said. “I think that’s happening to a large degree, with the exception of some offenses where judges don’t have discretion.”

Early returns on the SAFE-T Act

The law eliminating cash bail in Illinois first went into effect on Sept. 18. From that day through Oct. 30, the DuPage County States Attorney’s office filed 178 petitions to detain defendants awaiting trial. 84, or nearly half (47%), were granted.

Of the 84 petitions that were granted, 38 were related to cases involving domestic battery or violation of an order of protection. Berlin says that prior to the SAFE-T Act, the majority of defendants in these situations would post bond and be released.

“I think our judges are using their discretion appropriately. The violent criminals, the people that are really a danger to the community, are being detained,” Berlin said. “Those who can be safely released are getting released. That’s the way the law is supposed to work.”

Violent crime trending down in DuPage County

Besides the SAFE-T Act, the State’s Attorney also discussed the downturn of violent crime in DuPage County. Year-over-year numbers show that carjackings, aggravated robberies, and armed robberies are on the decline.

“I think the reason they’re down is because more prosecutors on those cases, and we’re sending a message that we don’t tolerate violent crime,” Berlin said.

Berlin credits specialized courts in the county as being a big contributor to the positive numbers. He says specialized courts are leading to a reduction in recidivism for first-time, nonviolent offenders.

“We have some great restorative justice programs to help those people, get them back on their feet, and get them back into the community to become productive members of society,” Berlin said.

Civic Awareness Series

Thursday’s event was the latest offering of the Civic Awareness Series hosted jointly by Cantigny and the Wheaton League of Women Voters.

The full public safety presentation, and past Civic Awareness forums, are available on the League of Women Voters’ website.