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Illinois to spend $30 million for ‘peacekeepers’ this fiscal year

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(The Center Square) – Community members from Chicago are seeking to address crime throughout the state with violence intervention methods as group officials suggest more funding is needed. Others say money is not the issue.

The Illinois Department of Human Services is looking to spend $30 million in fiscal year 2024 that started July 1 on the Peacekeepers Program. The money comes from COVID-19 relief federal tax funds. The program summary is looking for community groups with a “comprehensive approach to reducing firearm violence through targeted, integrated behavioral health services and economic opportunities.”

The community group Violence Interrupters focuses on interrupting violence in select cities throughout the United States by establishing short and long-term goals that will reduce the number of violent crimes.

The group’s founder, Tio Hardiman, told The Center Square that his group in Chicago had made strides in addressing some of the root causes of crime but did suggest increased funding to expand their operation.

“My overall goal here in Chicago is to hire another 1,000 violence interrupters to hit the streets of Chicago and mediate conflicts in Chicago at an all-time high level,” Hardiman said. “So we can reduce gun violence by 50% in Chicago.”

However, some have suggested that the job of limiting crime in Chicago and statewide may be too large of an issue for some of these community groups, and that more taxpayer funding won’t help.

“I think we have to be really careful with all the money that is being spent,” said Ted Dabrowski of Wirepoints. “The state, the city, has spent a lot of money on programs, and they are very difficult to measure. They are difficult to find out what the right metrics are. Are they working or are they not working? Are these groups professional, and can these groups succeed?”

Hardiman said groups like his have shown the capability of getting things done.

“We are trying to get to the place where we need to be. We have a budget, we have a proposal, and we know what we are doing,” Hardiman said. “We know how to get results. We have a proven track record when it comes to getting results and reducing gun violence.”

Dabrowski suggested putting more reliance on the police and the state’s laws that are already in place and told The Center Square that more funding does not fix the issues when police and prosecutors have let people walk.

“It is a revolving door. We need to shut the revolving door,” Dabrowski said. “There’s a lot we need to do to execute. Forget new money. Let’s execute the existing laws and the existing policies that we have.”

Chicago Police statistics show a 39% increase in total crime compared to last year.

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