23
July , 2018
Monday

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CHICAGO, IL – The families of gun violence victims expressed outrage over Gov. Bruce Rauner’s elimination of the CeaseFire program and other public safety services, but Rauner refused to send a representative from his administration to listen to these concerns at a hearing of the House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee in Chicago Wednesday.

 

“The bullet that killed my son may have been stopped if Governor Rauner hadn’t shut down the CeaseFire program in my neighborhood,” said Francine “Frances” Mendiola, whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed. “If this sort of violence were happening in Bruce Rauner’s neighborhood, he would do everything in his power to stop it. I’m here today to tell the governor that children living in Roseland, Englewood, Austin and Little Village matter just as much as kids in his neighborhood.”

 

Despite requests to the governor that he send a designee from his Criminal Justice Information Authority to attend the hearing, no administration officials were present as families affected by gun violence and the residents of some of Chicago’s most at-risk neighborhoods urged lawmakers to reverse the governor’s cuts to CeaseFire.

 

CeaseFire has proven successful in curbing violence in some of Chicago’s most at-risk neighborhoods, but an executive order issued by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015 suspended state funding for the program. The governor has since proposed two budgets with zero dollars for CeaseFire, along with other programs proven to keep communities safe including Teen Reach and the Youth Jobs Program. In July 2016, Rauner bragged about cutting “wasteful state spending” including funding for CeaseFire. Meanwhile, violent crime in Chicago and other communities in Illinois has risen sharply: nearly 2,500 more people were shot in Chicago during the last two years when CeaseFire was shut down, compared to the last two full years when CeaseFire interrupters were engaged in community mediation.

 

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who chairs the Appropriations-Public Safety Committee, questioned Rauner’s commitment to public safety services in his proposed budget and urged fellow committee members to restore funding for CeaseFire and other critical violence prevention programs.

 

“In his State of the State Address, the governor pleaded with lawmakers to address violence in Chicago, then two weeks later he stood before lawmakers and introduced a budget containing no funding for proven violence-prevention programs like CeaseFire, Teen Reach and the Youth Jobs Program,” Cassidy said. “The governor’s words did nothing for 12-year-old Kanari Gentry-Bowers, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes, and two-year-old Lavontay White, Jr., who were shot and killed the same week the governor presented his budget. Keeping our children safe takes more than words, it takes leadership. We all know the financial realities facing the state, but that’s no excuse to turn our backs on people who face the harsh reality that too many face in some of Illinois’ most at-risk neighborhoods.”

 

In order to help individuals find a path away from violence, CeaseFire outreach workers assist community members with job searches, continuing their education, and connecting with treatment for drug abuse. A 2016 study of the program shows that this holistic approach helps reduce rates of homicide and violent crime in neighborhoods with operational CeaseFire locations. Conversely, periods of unstable funding for CeaseFire and other violence prevention programs have been found to correspond with rising rates of shootings and killings in these same neighborhoods.

 

“CeaseFire helped me turn my life around. If they hadn’t been there for me when I was shot last fall, I don’t know where I’d be now,” said Niko Williams, a resident of Chicago’s West Side. “I have seen too many friends get shot, too many neighbors killed, and too many innocent children hit by stray bullets. I’ve also seen how CeaseFire saves lives. I’ve seen CeaseFire workers stand in the way of a gun to prevent shooting. I’ve seen how CeaseFire helps young people in my community get jobs, stay in school and keep out of trouble. Without them, these kids are getting caught up in crime and have no one around to show them a way out.”

 

The CeaseFire program approaches violence prevention as a public health issue and places workers in vulnerable communities to talk with victims, discourage retaliation, and provide preventative resources to people who are at-risk of engaging in violence. By sending outreach workers and violence interrupters to neighborhoods suffering the highest rates of shootings and killings, CeaseFire successfully mediates conflicts before they escalate to violence.

 

“Working for CeaseFire gave me a purpose – to help young people avoid going down the dangerous path that I did and that led me to 12 years behind bars,” said Angalia Bianca, an outreach worker and the implementation specialist for CeaseFire’s parent organization Stop Violence. “CeaseFire’s outreach workers and violence interrupters have found success by building real relationships in their communities. Data shows that eliminating funding for CeaseFire has led to the rate of shootings and killings in Chicago increasing – no question.”

 

 

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