Springfield is eligible for state funding to address gun violence

Abby Edwards of Springfield sits next to lists containing the names of children who have died in mass school shootings since Columbine during a Rally for Our Lives Against Gun Violence June 11 at the state Capitol. In the background, left to right, are Tracy Owens of Resistor Sisterhood, Britt Tate and Keri Tate, also of Resistor Sisterhood.

Following an announcement by Governor JB Pritzker earlier this week, Springfield is one of 16 municipalities eligible for a share of $100 million in a state grant to strengthen gun violence prevention measures.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Reimagine Public Safety Act, which was funded by the America’s Rescue Plan Act, last year. Through RSPA, nonprofits and local governments can apply this month for the grants.

“This administration is providing historic levels of violence prevention funding to stop violence and keep our communities safe,” the governor said in a released statement. “This funding will support the work on the ground by people with the community knowledge and passion needed to make meaningful change.”

Pritzker expressed his gratitude for the work done by the Local Advisory Councils, which made recommendations to the state to better address violence in their communities. The Springfield LAC is comprised of law enforcement officials, local and state legislators, an SIU School of Medicine faculty member, and the Springfield Boys & Girls Club.

Springfield and the other 15 municipalities fit the criteria based on population (fewer than 1 million residents) and because of the prevalence of gun violence. According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Springfield had 41 fatal and 151 non-fatal shootings from 2016 to 2020. At 33.6 per 20,000 residents, the city lagged behind other central Illinois cities such as Peoria (61.9 per 20,00) and Decatur (57.9 per 20,000).

Related:FOID, Red Flags and Restrictions: How State Laws Regulate Firearms Purchases

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention, part of the Illinois Department of Human Services, reached out to LACs for recommendations on how to combat community gun violence earlier this year. Those recommendations are part of what’s called the Greater Illinois Funding Strategy, which emphasizes efforts such as violence prevention, youth intervention and development, and trauma-informed mental health services.

“This round of funding is another step in making every community safer across the State,” said Chris Patterson, OFVP assistant secretary, in a statement. “The latest investments being made to address violence in Illinois have the potential to be just as important. We all have a responsibility to address the trauma of gun violence and prevent it.”

Many councils, including Springfield’s, also supported greater cooperation between the community and law enforcement. Specifically, the Springfield LAC expressed support for the focused deterrence model, which the National Institute of Justice – the research arm of the US Department of Justice – describes as a policing measure that focuses enforcement on hotbeds of violent crime.

As the city continues to face vacancies in its police department, the question remains whether these goals are achievable. Springfield Police Chief Ken Scarlette, a LAC member, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Related:As Springfield swears in new police officers, challenges remain in filling vacancies

Pritzker declared gun violence a public health crisis last November and called for a $250 million state investment through the RPSA over the next three years. Nearly $240 million in funding has been set aside to strengthen youth development and violence prevention efforts across the state for fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024.

This recent announcement comes on the heels of $113 million committed in May and a later $10 million in funding committed primarily to Chicago and other areas of the state before the start of the summer. IDHS oversees that funding and is still accepting grant applications for the $113 million.

Illinois isn’t alone when it comes to announcing gun violence prevention efforts. That’s what President Joe Biden was part of this week when he talked about the Safer America Plan during a visit to Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Among several provisions of the plan, SAP is calling for a $13 billion investment to hire up to 100,000 additional police officers nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union described the plan after it was introduced last month as comprehensive — supporting its investments in education and social services. What the ACLU did not favor was the increase in law enforcement hiring, which marks its similarity to the 1994 crime bill.

“While we welcome the president’s commitment to investing in communities, we strongly urge him not to repeat the grave mistakes of the 1990s — policies that widened racial disparities, contributed to widespread police abuses, and created the current mass incarceration crisis.” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Yasmi Cader said in a released statement.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter

This article originally appeared in the State Journal-Register: Springfield eligible for funding to address gun violence

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