CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to help expand the “CeaseFire” gang violence prevention project to 15 Illinois communities.
The $1.1 million in federal funds administered by the Authority is in addition to $2 million in state funds already designated this year for the grassroots-oriented project. The project seeks to stop shootings through the direct intervention of outreach workers in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence and by changing community attitudes toward violence.
CeaseFire, an initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, has been using outreach workers, clergy, and other community leaders to combat gang violence in some of Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods since 2000. This year’s funding is allowing the project to expand to 11 neighborhoods in Chicago, as well as sites in East St. Louis, Rockford, Aurora, and Maywood.
“Crime and violence in our communities is not just a problem for law enforcement,” Blagojevich said. “We need to change attitudes and behaviors regarding violence and demonstrate that it is not acceptable in our society. We need to provide hope and opportunities for our children growing up in neighborhoods that simply are not safe. And we need to do this today.”
“CeaseFire, through its neighborhood coalitions and collaboration with law enforcement, offers such an opportunity, and I am pleased to support the expansion of CeaseFire in Illinois,” the governor said.
CeaseFire is unique among crime prevention strategies in the way that it takes a public health approach to stopping firearm violence. It does this by mobilizing all elements of the community to
drive home the message that violence is not acceptable and that there are always alternatives to violence.
More than 20 neighborhood organizations work directly with CeaseFire to reach out to high-risk youths and gang members to quell the violence. Among these groups are TARGET Area Development Corp. in the Auburn Gresham community on Chicago’s South Side, the Alliance of Logan Square Organizations (ALSO) in Chicago, ACORN in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, and Vision of Restoration in Maywood.
CeaseFire now has more than 60 community outreach workers directly intervening and providing alternatives to gang violence in seven neighborhoods. Other sites that do not yet have outreach workers on the streets are organizing community leaders, raising public awareness of the anti-shooting initiative, and recruiting workers who will reach out to give youths an alternative to gangs and violence.
Hundreds of high-risk youths are being helped by the outreach workers, community workers and clergy associated with CeaseFire. In addition to intervening in conflicts, these workers offer counseling to jobless youths and assist with educational and employment opportunities.
In the core Chicago police beats where CeaseFire is operating with outreach workers there has been an average reduction in shootings of 44 percent since implementation. For the first four months of 2004, shootings in CeaseFire areas were down nearly 30 percent compared to the same period a year ago, according to preliminary Chicago Police Department data.
The funding from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority is in addition to $1.5 million designated earlier this year for the project from the Illinois State Police and $500,000 from the Illinois Department of Corrections. These funds are helping expand the project to new communities in Chicago, East St. Louis, Rockford, Aurora, and Maywood.
CeaseFire began in West Garfield Park in 2000, where a 67 percent drop in shootings was achieved in the first year of the project. CeaseFire now has outreach workers actively intervening and preventing shootings in Southwest Chicago, West Humboldt Park, Auburn Gresham, Logan Square, Rogers Park, and Maywood. The project is in the early stages of development in Rockford, East St. Louis, Aurora, and the Chicago neighborhoods of Belmont-Cragin, Brighton Park, East Garfield Park, Englewood, and Roseland.
“Englewood has been suffering for a long time, and the community has been waiting a long time for help in reducing the violence,” said Robin Hood, a community organizer with ACORN. “Now we are starting to see a difference. We already know of shootings being prevented, and CeaseFire is the reason.”
Shootings cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year in medical and criminal justice expenses. It has been estimated that an investment of $5 million in a violence prevention outreach program like CeaseFire can result in savings to the state of between $100 million and $150 million.