By Craig Hastings
Sanctuary states, sanctuary cities, legal cannabis possession states, and recently we’ve learned of large counties in states like California and New York refusing to charge property crime offences when the total monetary value of the property was less than $700.00. New York City has even stopped requiring bond for most all crimes committed in the city. Some of you may have heard of a man robbing three banks in four days in New York. How? Because each time he was arrested he was booked, given a simple notice to appear on some random date down the road, and released back out on the street. There was a day when federal officers would have taken bank robbery suspects into custody and held them on federal charges which would still require bond to be posted before release. I’m not sure why this wasn’t the case in this New York incident. Of course New York is being lead by Mayor Bill de Blasio, enough said. His own police department has turned on him.
So why do I care? I’m never moving to New York or California. Because I’m afraid this craziness may spread to Illinois some day before I’m dead and gone. Come on, how many of you would have ever expected that marijuana would ever become legal to purchase, possess, and use in Illinois or any other state in the union?! In 1979 the Tuscola Police Department, which I was employed as a part time police officer, was arresting people for having marijuana seeds in their possession. And, we usually found those seeds on the floorboard of vehicles. Then there were these small brass “one hitter” pipes we would find with nothing but burnt marijuana residue left inside of them we arrested people for in 1979.
Remember all of the posted and printed educational material warning all of us of this terrible “gateway” drug? Yep, it was a given that anyone using marijuana was destined to progress to using LSD, cocaine, speed, mushrooms, etc. What happened to all of the science that backed this theory up? Who changed whose mind? Is it really about the tax money that can be gained to help financially mismanaged states like Illinois? Does Illinois and other states need drug money to save them from pending financial disaster? I don’t know…maybe? Will cocaine become legal in Illinois a few years from now? We all think today that surely it won’t, that would be insane right? Don’t be so confident. If the market becomes strong enough and people are willing to line up for blocks to buy it, maybe.
Who would have ever imagined that a person can walk into a retail store in Los Angeles and steal $699.00 worth of merchandise and not be arrested or prosecuted?! That’s exactly the case right now. “Well, those big retail stores can handle thefts such as these and never affect their bottom line,” you say. What about the mom and pop neighborhood grocery stores? Gas stations? Restaurants? The list of small businesses is long that will surely be affected maybe even close. No worry, that’s all the way out on the west coast and California is weird anyway right? New York is all the way out on the east coast and those people are all loaded anyway right?
Illinois is broke. The result of poor management by the very people we elected to make sure it didn’t go broke. This took time starting some thirty years ago but, it has happened and it seems the people we elect now have no clue how to right the ship. They’ve taxed gas and cigarettes to the point of causing residents to drive across state lines to purchase both. Their fix; legalize marijuana and tax those who want to use it to a point of punishment for using it. “Well Illinois isn’t letting people steal and get away with it!” Sure we are. Just in around about way. What? Here’s how it works: shoplifting and getaway cars. It just happened to me last week.
It’s no secret that the Illinois State Police will not engage in vehicular pursuits for crimes such as shoplifting even if another police agency has initiated the pursuit. This isn’t a decision made by the troopers in the field, no this is an upper management decision made due to liability claims resulting from vehicular crashes that might happen due to the pursuits. Since this policy change was made many years ago by the Illinois State Police, other agencies adopted similar pursuit policies. Tuscola PD has made changes in our own pursuit policy because of this decision by the Illinois State Police. Why? Because if we can’t rely on the State Police assisting us in such a dangerous law enforcement activity, what else do we do? Most of our pursuits end up on a major highway. Do we put our own officers in harm’s way because other police agencies refuse to get involved? It’s the most ridiculous situation I’ve ever witnessed in my forty years working in law enforcement.
So last week while eating my lunch in my patrol car back by the Red Barn, Tuscola Police were dispatched and informed that a store in the Outlet Mall had just had two females leave the store with two large bags of new clothing and not paid for the merchandise. Secondly, and a must, the store management was willing to press charges. A description of the car was given with an unknown out of state registration plate. I threw my lunch on the floor and hurried to the mall just a hundred yards from where I was located. I could see the suspect car enter Rt. 36 as I hurry on Progress boulevard. As I entered onto Rt. 36 I could see the suspect car does not go south on I-57 nor east on Rt. 36 past the north I-57 ramp.
I could see the suspect vehicle way out in front of me as I traveled up the northbound ramp onto I-57. Traffic kept me from catching up until Pesotum. The suspects seemed to be unaware of my car until I activated my lights once directly behind them. We were traveling approximately 75 mph at that time. Quickly we reached and sustained speeds of 100 mph to 125 plus mph. Long story short, the driver of the suspect vehicle attempted to pass a pickup truck on the left shoulder of I-57 at the Curtis Road exit. The driver lost control, came back onto I-57 and struck that same pickup truck causing it to spin out in the median. The car continued to travel across both lanes of traffic and was struck in the right rear quarter panel by the right front tire of a semi tractor. This caused the suspect vehicle to stall in the middle of I-57. As I approached the car the two suspects locked the doors preventing me from opening the car. I hurried back to my own vehicle, which was parked in the middle of I-57 so to control traffic to prevent another accident. When I did this, both females fled from their car and ran up the Curtis Road ramp where they were quickly detained by an off-duty police officer.
That’s right, an off-duty police officer because not one other police agency had engaged my pursuit. I was standing out on I-57 for nearly seven minutes before any other police agency arrived on scene. So, it was only a clothing retail theft right? Wrong. As it turned out the driver and passenger had multiple arrests warrants out of multiple states. The driver was cautioned as armed and dangerous. The Oakbrook Police Department contacted me after learning of the pursuit because they believe these suspects are part of a large theft ring operating in the Cook County/Chicago area. The car, a really nice, 2019 Impala had been leased from a holding company in New York but registered in the state of Minnesota. Suspicious you think?
I transported the driver back to Tuscola and another Tuscola officer transported the passenger. I asked the driver of the car why she fled from me over a shoplifting incident. She told me she was afraid of the police and didn’t think she would be chased. Of course she didn’t! Oakbrook had been hit for $10,000 worth of merchandise weeks before by people driving this same car but, weren’t allowed to pursue! It’s my understanding from a pursuit that took TPD into Champaign last summer that Champaign PD doesn’t pursue shoplifting incidents either.
After my pursuit ended in a crash, which no one was injured, three Illinois State Police cars, two Champaign County cars, and two Champaign City cars showed up; after the crash. Again, this isn’t because those officers driving those cars didn’t want to engage and assist, they were not allowed. So where does the lawlessness end? Are we at a point that if criminals get to a getaway car and drive away that police just say ”Oh well?” I pray for those police officers that follow after I’m done with this.
(The views and opinions expressed in the submitted columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Journal.)