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Vandalism to get expensive

Added protection for historic sites works way through Illinois General Assembly

Vandalism seems like such a small crime, but it is damaging in many ways. Costs seem obvious, but if you have a 501(c)(3) corporation (not-for-profit), that cost can be devastating to that charity or group.

The other cost that is not obvious — damage to a heritage home or structure can cause the costs to escalate rapidly since heritage structures on a National Heritage site listing can require the repair be made back to the original state of the structure, which often proves costly to replicate.

Those persons who commit vandalism will now have to think hard before doing vandalism to historic sites and building because of a new law, which we at the Grundy County Historical Society and Museum strongly support.

Both We Care of Grundy County and the Museum of the Grundy County Historical Society — both of which occupy space in CanalPort Community Center — have been vandalized in the last year, which is the why of this article and the future impact for anyone doing such vandalism.

In discussing this problem with other heritage sites and historical societies, the Sangamon County Historical Society decided to seek some type of legislation, local and otherwise, that would add some teeth to the legal consequences of such actions.  It was felt that damaging or destroying historic property should not be dismissed as a simple act of vandalism and treated accordingly as so often happens.

They contacted the Grundy County Historical Society for support on the proposal and we have willingly given support.  The Sangamon Historical Society and their supporters appeared in front of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee on March 20.

This is House Bill 3043, which was introduced by Rep. David Harris and has since picked up multiple co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.

Now there is an amendment to the Criminal Code of 2012.  Statute Amended was 720 ILCS 5/21-1.6 new. The following is the amendment:

Synopsis As Introduced
Amend the Criminal Code of 2012. This creates the offense of historic site vandalism. Provides that a person who commits historic site vandalism when he or she knowingly inflicts damage to property located in or on a historic site. Defines “historic site” as (1) property listed on the National Register of Historic Places; or (2) property designated with landmark status by any county, township, or municipality. Provides that a violation is a petty offense. Provides that in addition to any other sentence imposed, the court shall sentence the offender to pay: (1) financial restitution for replication and repair of damage to the property vandalized that meets the quality of the original construction of the structure or grounds; and (2) a fine equal to the cost of replication of the vandalized property. Effective immediately.

Please note that point 2 above will also cover all the homes which have a Heritage plaque as granted here in Morris for all the homes on the Heritage House Walking Tour. 

We at the Grundy County Historical Society Museum are thankful that this amendment was among the legislation passed by both houses of the General Assembly last Friday, May 31, the final day of the legislative session.

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