Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared gun violence a public health crisis in Illinois and pledged to give $250 million to community-based organizations to tackle the issue.
The plan is part of Pritzker's Reimagine Public Safety Act, which established the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention that will focus on preventing violence in communities with the highest rates of gun activity. The new office will be led by Chris Patterson, who has worked in grassroots organizations mitigating the effects of gun violence in neighborhoods for more than a decade.
“If we want to put an end to violence, we need to follow those who are already leading the way. Every neighbor, every home, deserves to be free from gun violence. And that is the crux of this initiative,” Pritzker said during a press conference earlier this month.
Patterson said his office will incorporate the use of data-driven evidence models, as well as work with organizations that are doing outreach work in Chicago, health professionals and case management workers to make sure that communities disproportionately targeted by gun violence throughout the city and state have support. According to recent data from Chicago Police Department, there have been 715 homicides so far this year, compared to 696 homicides in all of last year.
“Our goal in public safety is to have children no longer think about being shot at,” Patterson said. “Communities don’t feel safe because of the violence. So, we are going to be offering our resources along with our city and our county partners to reimagine what safety looks like in Chicago and across the state of Illinois. In the next year, we are making sure that we are putting out funding opportunities for organizations and municipalities. By next year, we expect programming to hit the ground running across the state of Illinois, doing this great work around gun violence reduction.”
The safety plan will include housing and health care resources, job opportunities, family support services and violence intervention programs for high-risk youth.
“I think, for a long time, people in communities that have been ravaged by gun violence. They have been waiting impatiently, [They] would like a solution,” Patterson said. “It's really exciting to see that this office is created. It's a new office with, you know, new leadership coming out, developing a comprehensive strategy that is holistic in a collaborative way. We are really excited about making sure that we are addressing [gun violence] in a combined effort.”