Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias on Thursday plans to announce $21 million in grants to police departments and task forces across the state in an effort to quell a three-year spike in gun-carjackings.

More than half of that total went to the Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department as the city grapples with some of the highest number of carjackings seen in at least a generation.

“This is destroying the community,” Giannoulias told the Sun-Times ahead of the grant announcement. “It's causing people to leave the state, it's making people hesitate to put their kids in the back seat. It could happen at 10am or 2pm.

“We want to provide law enforcement every resource we can to help identify and prosecute these criminals,” said Giannoulias, the first Democratic nominee elected last year to replace longtime former Secretary of State Jesse White.

Nearly half of the total grant — nearly $10.3 million — will go to the Illinois State Police Highway Safety Enforcement Group, while approximately $1.5 million will go to the Chicago Police Department's Major Car Theft Investigation unit.

The money is slated to supplement police budgets for license plate readers, helicopters, tracking devices, GPS software and other technology to track carjackers, as well as to help cover additional investigator salaries.

Chicago has a higher rate of carjacking than any other area in Illinois, according to figures from the city and state.

More than 1,600 armed carjackings were reported in the city last year, which marks an 11% drop from 2021—but still higher than any other year since at least two decades ago.

Chicago carjacking reports more than doubled from 603 in 2019 to 1,413 in 2020. They peaked at 1,849 in 2021. More than 250 have been reported this year.

Giannoulias said it was his personal problem, too, after getting hijacked with a bunch of basketball teammates on the city's West Side in 1998.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Giannoulias was a senior in high school in 1998, driving with a group of teammates to a state three-point shooting competition in Champaign. Their vehicle was hijacked by a group of people carrying guns and knives in an Austin neighborhood.

“It was a brutal experience. It leaves a scar that you never forget,” he said. “I hate to think of anyone else going through that.”

The other grant will go to the Illinois Statewide Auto Theft Task Force, led by the Secretary of State for Police ($3.4 million); Metro East Car Theft Task Force ($2.5 million); The Greater Peoria Auto Crime Task Force ($2.1 million); and the Tri-County Car Theft Task Force ($1.8 million).

The funding comes in part from a $1 appraisal on auto insurance policies that went to the Illinois Board of Insurance Verification and Vehicle Piracy and Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention.

The agency, overseen by Giannoulias' office, has been in existence for more than 30 years, but state laws were changed last year to dedicate more funds to carjacking prevention. The grant also draws in a portion of the $30 million set aside in the state budget last year to target the crime.

Funds will be distributed over the next few weeks. Police forces can apply to renew the grant for the next three years.