Illinois gives regional task force $1.8 million to combat vehicle thefts

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias is pictured in a file photo.

The Tri-County Auto Theft Task Force has received $1.8 million in state funding to continue its efforts to combat vehicle thefts and other related crime in Will, Grundy, Kendall, Kankakee and Iroquois counties.

The funding is part of a larger initiative from Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias’ office to address vehicle thefts across the state, according to a report from Capital News Illinois. Other interagency law enforcement task forces similar to the Tri-County Auto Theft Task Force also have received funding.

Between July 2019 and June of this year, the Tri-County Auto Theft Task Force made more than 300 arrests and recovered more than 1,000 vehicles worth more than $20 million, in addition to recovering more than $800,000 in stolen cargo, said Joliet police Sgt. Ed Grizzle, who serves as director of the task force.

The task force has 12 officers from various police agencies, two prosecutors from two different counties and a civilian staff member, Grizzle said. The officers assigned are undercover detectives, he said.

“The task force is a covert unit that handles all matters regarding vehicle crimes – vehicular hijacking, stolen cars, title fraud, financial identity theft, cargo theft, catalytic converter theft to name a few,” Grizzle said.

The task force also assists other police agencies in other crimes they are investigating to find a suspect vehicle, Grizzle said. It also teaches new police officers about vehicle-related crimes, he said.

The task force makes presentations to community groups, high schools, and colleges and universities, Grizzle said.

“The task force will continue to combat crimes in the areas of auto theft and continue to work with all police agencies – federal, state, county and local – to continue to make our communities safer,” he said.

The task force has a 74% recovery rate of stolen vehicles and works closely with insurance companies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Grizzle said.