Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Monday the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Law, a measure aimed at the criminal outfits blamed for up to 80 percent of the murders in Chicago.

Known as Street Gang RICO, the legislation was passed two weeks ago by the state's General Assembly.

"One of the best ways to make our neighborhoods safer is to go after street gang leaders who profit from crime," Quinn said at Monday's signing ceremony here. "Gang leaders cannot be allowed to escape justice by hiding behind criminals who do their bidding."

The governor was accompanied by Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

The idea for Illinois Street Gang RICO came from Alvarez and the bill was sponsored in the legislature by State Sen. Tony Munoz - a former Chicago police officer - and State Rep. Mike Zalewski.

Under the new law, which takes effect immediately, gang members convicted of criminal conspiracy could face more than 30 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Prosecutors will be able to link different crimes committed by a gang into a single case in an effort to dismantle the organization and hold its leaders accountable.

Greater Chicago is thought to have the largest gang population in the United States, with approximately 100,000 members distributed among 600 or so groups.

"The Chicago Police Department is committed to making Chicago a safe place to live, work, and play for our residents and we will use all available resources, including the new RICO law, to ensure the safety of communities across the city of Chicago," McCarthy said Monday. EFE