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Some question effectiveness of violence intervention, jobs programs in state budget

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(The Center Square) – An analysis of the Illinois state budget set to begin July 1 shows about $180 million will go toward violence intervention and youth summer jobs programs. Some question whether that will move the needle.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Surgeon General labeled “gun violence” a “public health crisis.”

“Firearm violence has become the number one cause of death among children and adolescents,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said earlier this week, pointing to a chart that includes adults 18-19 years old.

“The Surgeon General’s advisory lays out the approach we can take to address firearm violence as the public health crisis that it is,” Murthy said. “This includes implementing community violence prevention programs and firearm risk reduction strategies.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised Murthy’s message. He said Illinois is doing what it can by putting more tax dollars into violence intervention programs. The new Illinois state budget that begins Monday includes about $180 million in taxpayer funded grants to violence intervention and youth summer jobs programs.

“We think that it’s very important to track and trace, you know, what happens with the dollars that we put into those programs and it does prove to work,” Pritzker said at an unrelated event earlier this week. “And then you see the reverse of it in the years prior, take the money away, violence increases.”

Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski questioned increased money toward such programs without making stronger deterrent to crimes.

“We’re not prosecuting and we’re actually handcuffing the police when it comes to doing their job, whether it’s we’re not doing foot chases, we’re not doing car chases, we’ve got the [end of cash bail statewide], which is allowing more criminals to be out on the streets,” Dabrowski told The Center Square.

Dabrowski said addressing crime on the streets must be paramount. Addressing the root causes of crime will take more time.

Earlier this month during the budget signing ceremony alongside Pritzker, state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, praised the budget for including millions for violence intervention and youth summer jobs programs.

“From Chicago to Cairo, from Pembroke to Peoria, and ensuring that our communities are safer because of the investments that we’re making and programs like youth employment,” Gordon-Booth said.

Dabrowski said while such funding could have a short-term positive effect, it’s not sustainable long term.

“The money would be better spent creating real opportunity, rather than just tax people and send it to programs which are unproven,” Dabrowski said. “When we’re a six year high in violent crimes right now, it’s not about money. We don’t have the right strategies.”

Another issue Dabrowski points to is the high rate of police being unavailable in Chicago to respond to high priority 911 calls. A Wirepoints report found in 2023, of more than 1,800 calls made to 911 in Chicago of a person being shot, only about 800, or fewer than half, were responded to immediately by police officers.

“Firearm violence is a public health crisis,” Murthy said. “Our failure to address it is a moral crisis. To protect the health and wellbeing of Americans, especially our children, we must now act with the clarity, courage and urgency that this moment demands.”

Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Chairman Alan Gottlieb responded to Murthy’s message, saying “gun ownership is not a communicable disease, it’s a constitutional right.”

“This is just one more effort by the Biden administration to demonize guns and the law-abiding citizens who own them,” said Gottlieb. “The problem with violent crime is not that it is a disease, but a symptom of failed leadership, from the White House on down. From the day he took office, Joe Biden has treated gun owners like social lepers. He considers us second-class citizens who should be ostracized as though we are spreading a plague.”

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