Following the tragic loss of Illinois DCFS caseworker Deidre Silas, state Rep. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island) is reaffirming his commitment to pursue legislation cracking down on violence against caseworkers. Silas was killed Tuesday in the performance of her duties for the state.
“The recent killing of Deidre Silas is a tragic reminder that Illinois caseworkers are often faced with serious dangers in the line of duty, and we must strengthen our actions to keep them safe from harm,” Halpin said in Wednesday release. “I am absolutely committed to passing legislation to this effect. Robust penalties for violent crimes, especially against people working to provide assistance to those in need, are not simply appropriate, they are essential.”
Halpin was an early backer of House Bill 3933, legislation which strengthens penalties for harming human services caseworkers, among others. The bill was written to combat similar instances of alarming violence across Illinois, and will have a direct effect on situations like these, his release says. Halpin previously helped pass similar legislation in the House, but the Senate did not take action on it.
“I want to be clear to any criminals who are prepared to violently prey upon caseworkers: Illinois will not tolerate these violations,” he said. “The best memorial to the loss of such a dedicated public servant is ensuring similar deaths do not happen, and House Bill 3933 is a big step towards achieving that. I offer my deepest sympathies to the family of the Deidre Silas.”
Authorities have arrested a Thayer, Ill. man after a Department of Children and Family Services caseworker was found dead a residence in the village Tuesday afternoon.
Deidre Silas of Springfield, 36, was responding to a report of a child in danger in the 300 block of West Elm.
The Sangamon County Sheriff said police were called for a possible stabbing. Pawnee officers arrived first, with Auburn and Divernon police soon after, according to NPR Illinois. The sheriff said they noticed a substance that appeared to be blood near the door of the residence. Once they made into the house, the sheriff said Silas’ body was found. She was declared dead at the scene.
County deputies soon determined a suspect, who was located at a hospital in Decatur. Decatur police took Benjamin Reed of Thayer, 32, into custody. He was transported back to the Sangamon County jail.
Reed faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
The AFSCME union issued a statement calling it an unspeakable crime that must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“This tragedy is a stark reminder that frontline DCFS employees like Deidre do demanding, dangerous and essential jobs every day, often despite inadequate resources and tremendous stress,” the statement read.
“AFSCME will carefully study the facts of this incident as they emerge and press for any necessary changes to DCFS operations. One death in the line of service is too many.”
The union said Silas joined DCFS in August 2021. Prior to that, she worked in behavioral health and for more than seven years with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker also issued a statement:
“Today, the State of Illinois mourns the loss of Deidre Silas, a DCFS caseworker and a hero, taken from us in the line of duty. There is no higher calling than the work to keep children and families safe and Deidre lived that value every single day. Our most vulnerable are safer because she chose to serve. I can think of no more profound legacy. MK and I send our deepest condolences to her colleagues at DCFS, her family, and all who loved her.”