(The Center Square) – There is now an Office of Firearm Violence Prevention in Illinois, designed to take a holistic approach to the problem of gun violence statewide.
The office, part of the Illinois Department of Human Services, will aim its efforts on communities with the highest rates of violence while providing millions of dollars to violence intervention programs.
“These community needs, and they will receive violence interruption, trauma-informed services, and programs for young people to find a better way,” said Chris Patterson, the newly created assistant secretary.
There were 1,151 murders committed in Illinois in 2020, up 38% from the previous year. According to data from the 2020 Uniform Crime Report, the crime rate in Illinois was 6.9% higher than the overall national crime rate.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it is his goal to commit $250 million over the next three years to reduce violence in Illinois neighborhoods. The resources will draw from federal and state funding, including $50 million in the current budget. But the $100 million in appropriations won’t be a sure thing with lawmakers.
Pritzker said Republicans don’t have a solid plan to fight crime.
“Republicans have only been calling for more time in prison for people, they only have been calling for cracking down and just slogans for law and order,” Pritzker said.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, a firefighter and medic, said the measures include criminal justice changes that would keep violent offenders off the streets, offenders he keeps dealing with repeatedly.
“What’s getting more and more prominent is the fact that we are going on these calls time and time again with violence caused by the same people,” Anderson said. “Recidivism is at an all-time high.”
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the legislation will further weaken the criminal justice system.
“While violence in Illinois is at unprecedented levels, Governor Pritzker, the Illinois legislative Democrats and States Attorney Kim Foxx have created a ‘consequence free’ Illinois for organized street gangs and criminals,” Durkin said in a statement. “Their collective dismissal of victims and law enforcement during this time will not be forgotten. My heart goes out to the thousands of victims of crime that our government continues to fail.”