PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In an effort to combat carjackings and motor vehicle thefts in the Peoria area, Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias is awarding grants totaling more than $2.1 million.

The goal is to create and fund the greater Peoria Auto Crimes Task Force or “G-pact.”

The money was awarded in response to Peoria County consistently being ranked in the top 10 counties in Illinois for auto thefts, with the rate of those thefts continuing to increase.

In 2022, there were 622 reported auto thefts in Peoria County, which is more than triple the amount in 2015.

“From carjackings and stolen motor vehicles, to catalytic converter theft, Peoria County had the fifth-highest rate of auto-related crimes in the state last year, per capita, we were the highest,” Peoria County States Attorney Jodi Hoos said.

The funding was part of the $21 million in funding from the Illinois Vehicle Hijacking and Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention and Insurance Verification Council that went to law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Statewide, my office is awarding more than $21 million to help 6 law enforcements to increase manpower, tools, and strategies to combat carjacking, and motor vehicle theft,” Giannoulias said.

The Illinois General Assembly also appropriated $30 million last year to help with public safety efforts. The Greater Peoria Auto Crimes Task Force will focus on prevention, investigation and prosecution.

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria said there have been 293 stolen vehicles in 2023 so far and had a message for car thieves in Peoria.

“Like I have said before, you have three options: Don’t do the crime, leave our county, or go to jail,” Echevarria said.