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Advocates, legislators push for $140 million to fund violence prevention

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(The Center Square) – The Reimagine Public Safety Act calls for a comprehensive approach to reducing violent crime through targeted community investments. Advocates and violence prevention groups gathered in Springfield recently to push for $140 million.

Target Area Development Director of Research and Re-entry Edward McBride said the reduction of crime in Chicago can be attributed to the Reimagine Public Safety Act and peacekeepers, who receive about $200 a day in taxpayer dollars.

“But essentially this has a known factor to bring down crime in the city and around the state, and we are looking at a 40% drop in the city of Chicago in gun violence. There have been numerous programs that have been implemented with this funding and we want to permanently fund it so that it doesn’t go away,” said McBride.

Target Area Development is a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent violence.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the legislature dedicated millions of dollars to violence prevention programs last spring.

“I know late last spring, earlier summer, there was an initiative for several million dollars for some peacekeepers in Chicago and the numbers I am seeing is that crime continues to increase,” said Halbrook.

According to Wirepoints, Chicago led the nation in homicides for the 12th year in a row in 2023 with murder rates are five times higher than New York City’s.

Despite instances where so-called peacekeepers in Chicago have been charged with beating and robbing people, advocates and state Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, pushed for more funding to be given to violence prevention programs that work with the peacekeepers.

Peacekeepers can be ex-convicts like Oscar Montes who was on tape in his yellow peacekeeper vest last year, with about six other men, and was beating and robbing a victim they had pulled from a car stopped at a red light in Chicago. Montes, prior to becoming a peacekeeper, served over 10 years for aggravated discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle.

Hundreds of violence prevention advocates in orange shirts and yellow peacekeeper vest were at the Capitol last week. McBride said his organization works with peacekeepers.

“The peacekeepers are the ones who are actually out there in the streets and they can keep the peace amongst everyone in the hot spots,” said McBride.

Last year, the Illinois Department of Human Services was looking to spend $30 million of taxpayer money on the Peacekeeper initiative. Halbrook said the spending isn’t helping.

“I’m not sure how these measures that we spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on … I don’t see how they’re helping,” said Halbrook.

City of Chicago data for 2022 reveal that arrests were made for only 5% of offenses in Chicago’s major crime categories. That compares to 10% in 2019. The arrest rate for homicides in 2022 were at 28%.

On the House floor last week, Slaughter said that violent prevention organizations are making sure individuals in underserved communities get the resources they need. He called to continue to uplift and support the organizations that are bringing the vision to life with the Reimagine Public Safety Act. He asked for $140 million.

“I do know showing up with a big crowd like this in Springfield shows the legislators that this is affecting the community,” said McBride. “If you put a face to what they’re passing, it’s more personable for them.”

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