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Illinois invests $250 million in community violence prevention programs

Gov. JB Pritzker signs an extension of the Reimagine Public Safety Act into law.
Gov. JB Pritzker signs an extension of the Reimagine Public Safety Act into law.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 5:43 PM CST
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CHICAGO (WGEM) - Illinois is moving another step closer to reimagining public safety with a new Office of Firearm Violence Prevention. Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday to establish the office and create new resources for violence intervention programs.

This law allows the state to invest $250 million into community violence prevention programs over the next three years. It comes a month after Pritzker declared gun violence a public health crisis in Illinois.

“No law can change the past or give back a life,” Pritzker said. “Indeed, I wish we didn’t have to live in a world where lives can be so thoughtlessly and easily stolen in the first place. But what we can do, we must do.”

The new grants will help community advocates reduce gun violence through trauma-based services and youth development programs. Sponsors say Illinois deserves public safety for all and people working hand-in-hand to lift up affected communities.

Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago) says the status quo response to gun violence led to “communities on fire.” He said that only became worse over the past year. Peters argues the “smoke” has spread to everyone across Illinois and the state must respond by “putting out the fires.”

“It will be a targeted, evidence-based and compassionate program to interrupt, guide and lift up communities who have been struggling,” Peters said. “It will be diverse and focused in all areas all over the state, and it will be historic.”

The Office of Firearm Violence Prevention will work with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and Firearm Violence Research Group to create new intervention programs and training for high-risk youth. Advocates believe the intergovernmental approach to help community organizations will reduce gun violence and address trauma in neighborhoods.

“We are showing these communities that we are listening and we stand with them,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “They know what they need to move forward. And they have long fought to change those conditions.”

Still, not all are happy with the new law. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) argues the plan will further weaken the criminal justice system. He said Friday that Pritzker, legislative Democrats, and Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx created a “consequence-free Illinois” for criminals.

“Their collective dismissal of victims and law enforcement during this time will not be forgotten,” Durkin said. “My heart goes out to the thousands of victims of crime that our government continues to fail.”

However, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) said he is proud of the General Assembly’s work to create a comprehensive plan to address violence. He stressed that addressing the root cause of violence requires time and money.

“This plan allows us to properly equip on-the-ground organizations who know their communities best,” Welch said. “This is an excellent first step in our violence prevention efforts, and this will remain a top priority for us moving forward.”

Money for the grants comes from a combination of federal and state funding, including $50 million from the current state budget. Community violence prevention organizations can find the grant application by clicking here.

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