Dealers to pay costs of their arrest E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   
About a year ago, Chris Jensen, a 35-year-old patrolman with the Elgin, Illinois Police Department, had an idea. Why not charge drug dealers for the cost of their arrest?

Ten months later, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn came to the Elgin police station and, as 100 people looked on, he signed Jensen's idea into state law.

Now, anyone in Illinois convicted of delivering or selling controlled substances can be fined for the costs associated with their arrest.

The state can also fine convicted felons retroactively for any other jail sentence or probation they already faced. The proceeds will be divided between the local police department that made the arrest and the state police.

"I was on the gang crime unit for 10 years and we did hundreds of drug investigations," Jensen told the Elgin Courier News in a recent interview.

"I realized these investigations can be extremely expensive to Elgin. Why should the citizens have to pay for this when we could have the drug dealers pay?"

Jensen brought the idea to one of his bosses, Lt. Jeff Adam. The Lieutenant liked what he heard, so the two cops headed over to the office of the Elgin area's state representative, Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) and persuaded Farnham to introduce the idea as a bill in the Illinois House.

Then State Sen. Michael Noland (D-Elgin) agreed to sponsor the bill in the state Senate.

Noland pointed out that the fine can be assessed not just against cash held by the drug dealer, but against any of his physical assets. The dealer's furniture, car, TV, and even his home now can be seized by the state and sold, with the proceeds being split up between local law enforcement agencies and the state police.

"Word will get out on the street that your family is at risk if you sell drugs - your car and your home and everything in that home," Noland predicted.

"When you get into the pockets of wrongdoers, it really gets their attention," Gov. Quinn told reporters after he signed the document and passed out the pen he used to record each letter of his signature to Jensen and other Elgin police officers.

"The best thing is to prevent crime from happening. But when it does, we want to make sure those who commit it pay the tab," Quinn said. Though this idea came from Elgin, "this will help all cities, large and small, statewide," Quinn said.

He said the way the idea for the law boiled up from two grass roots Illinois cops like Jensen and Adam is "in the best traditions of American democracy."


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