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Illinois arson registry solution heads to Pritzker

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation that will allow Illinois police and firefighters to implement the state’s long-neglected arson registry is headed to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk.

The Illinois Senate passed the bill last week without opposition, about a month after it passed the Illinois House of Representatives. Pritzker spokesman Alex Gough told Lee Enterprises that the governor “will carefully review the final legislation.”

The bill would allow the Illinois State Police to identify arsonists through the agency’s existing criminal history information system. It would negate the current law’s mandate to build the database using the Illinois Law Enforcement and Citizen Reporting and Analysis System (I-CLEAR), which state police officials described as an expensive method for which They never received funds to implement.

A drone is being developed that can fly into fires and save lives.



The measure would also empower the state police to create administrative rules governing the implementation of the registry. The arsonist database would be expected by July 1, 2025.

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Its delivery would be delayed by more than two decades.

The original law, known as the Arsonist Registration Act, was signed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2004. It was an initiative of the survivors of a tragic school fire in 1958 in Chicago that left 95 dead.

Over the years, the Illinois Auditor General’s Office repeatedly cited state police and the State Fire Marshal’s Office for failing to set up and maintain the database as intended.

State police, in turn, blamed lawmakers, saying they never provided the money the agency would need to develop the registry.







Arsonists Database

This screenshot, taken earlier this year from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s website, shows what appears when a visitor clicks on the link to the “Arsonist Database.”


ILLINOIS STATE FIRE CHIEF


But after audit findings and reports from Lee Enterprises drew attention to the blatant oversight, the legislative solution was proposed that would allow the state police to use its existing system.

Like the long-established sex offender registry, the database will include information on convicted arsonists along with those found not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity.

The state police will provide the information to the fire marshal’s office, which hosts the publicly accessible database (minus any data to populate it) on its website.

The number of convicted arsonists is believed to be in the hundreds compared to the more than 33,000 registered sex offenders in the state.