Background

Gun violence is by far the largest driver of homicides in America, the overwhelming majority of which take the form of day-to-day shootings in underserved communities.1 Black and Latino young men living in low-income urban neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by this tragic violence—almost 75% of America’s 14,542 gun homicide victims in 2017 were either Black or Latino, and nearly 85% were male.2

In order to adequately address this public health crisis, we need policies that target not only the supply of guns in impacted communities but also the root causes of community violence. In addition to stronger gun laws, there are a number of highly effective intervention strategies that directly address gun homicides and shootings by working with high-risk individuals to disrupt cycles of violence. For more details on these strategies, see our Healing Communities in Crisis report.

Interpersonal Gun Violence in Illinois

Illinois has struggled with gun violence for decades, and elevated levels of violence in recent years have earned the state the 6th-highest gun homicide rate in the country. In fact, between 2015 and 2016, Illinois experienced a 38% increase in firearm-involved homicides, bringing the state’s gun homicide rate to its highest level in over 10 years.3 In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the gun homicide rate in Illinois stayed at this decades-long high of 7.6 gun-related homicides per 100,000 residents.

Illinois experienced a total of 934 firearm-involved homicides in 2017, accounting for 83% of all murders in the state.4 Gun violence is highly concentrated in the city of Chicago, nearly two-thirds of all homicides in Illinois occur.5 Shootings in Illinois also have a disparate impact on communities of color. Black men make up 7% of Illinois’s overall population, but 72% of gun homicide victims.6

Cycles of violence in Illinois take an enormous emotional and physical toll on the state’s residents, and gun violence also places a tremendous financial burden on the state. Including direct and indirect costs, gun violence in Illinois costs taxpayers approximately $7.2 billion annually.7

Illinois’s Investment in Strategies to Address Community Violence

Historically, Illinois’s primary state-level investment in addressing community violence has come in the form of a yearly grant to support the Cure Violence model of violence reduction. This strategy, described in more detail below, is a public health approach to violence that relies on credible messengers to conduct street outreach to high-risk individuals.

Despite promising results in target neighborhoods, state funding for Cure Violence has been extremely inconsistent, and the program suffered abrupt funding cuts in 2007, 2011, and again in 2015.8 These cuts forced many program sites to close their doors, and left hundreds of high-risk clients without a support system.9 Each of these cuts was accompanied by a rise in the city’s homicide rate, underscoring the importance of robust and consistent funding for violence intervention efforts over time.

Since 2017, Illinois has restored its investment in the Cure Violence model, and in the most recent budget, which was signed on June 5, 2019, state leaders appropriated $6.1 million for FY 2020 to a community-based organization called Metropolitan Family Services to provide “street intervention programming.”10

In addition, Illinois is supplementing this with a $7.5 million investment in its Community-based Violence Prevention Programs (CBVIP) grant, which has been in place since 2018.11 CBVIP grants are awarded to entities that provide services such as case management, violence mediation, mentoring, mental health counseling, and community and partnership building to ensure the most effective provision of these services to at-risk youth and young adults.12

Finally, with its most recent budget, Illinois also added a new investment of $12 million to support “violence prevention and street intervention programming” in municipalities of certain sizes: $5 million for the city of Chicago or cities with a population of one million or greater, $4 million for programming in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, and Cook counties for municipalities with a population less than one million, and $3 million for municipalities in all other counties.13 The budget also allocates an additional $1 million to the Saver Foundation to support its partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital’s Urban Health Institute, with a goal of improving services for victims of non-fatal shootings in communities on Chicago’s west side.14

Taken together, the investments made in Illinois’s FY 2020 budget represent a significant increase in state-level funding for violence reduction strategies focused on providing services to high-risk individuals. The state’s total investment in this area has grown steadily in recent years, and is now at more than $26 million, up from $14 million in FY 2019 and zero investment as recently as 2015–2016. The current budget represents a per capita investment of $2.10 per resident, making Illinois one of the nation’s leaders in terms of state-level investments in violence reduction strategies.

Although it will take several years to determine the impact of this investment, given the enormous cost of gun violence, a sustained allocation of resources to such strategies is likely to save hundreds of lives, as well as billions in taxpayer dollars.

The history of Illinois’ investment in violence reduction programs demonstrates the incredible harm that can result from inconsistent state funding, and the need to maintain such funding over time in order to sustain results.

Lessons Learned from the Inconsistent Funding of Cure Violence

Illinois long ago identified gun violence as a public health issue and has, in intervals, funded effective, evidence-based violence intervention strategies. In fact, the state is home to the pilot site of the now nationally recognized violence reduction model known as Cure Violence, a public health approach that treats violent behavior as a “contagious disease transmitted from person to person via emulation and social norms.”15

By utilizing Outreach Workers (OWs) and Violence Interrupters (VIs), Cure Violence aims to address the root causes of violence by connecting community members at risk of committing or becoming involved in violent activity with mental health counseling, educational opportunities, and job training, among other support services. Violence Interrupters are additionally tasked with identifying and mediating conflicts that might otherwise result in a shooting or homicide.

In 2000, Cure Violence launched its first implementation site in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, a community with one of the highest rates of violence in the city.16 Within a year, shootings and killings dropped by 67%.17 Over the next two years, the program was replicated in five more Chicago neighborhoods: Logan Square, Auburn Gresham, West Humboldt Park, Rogers Park, and Southwest.18 This expansion was followed by a 42% decline in shootings, on average, across the new program areas.19

In 2004, an influx of state dollars enabled Cure Violence to drastically scale up its operations, growing from 5 to 15 communities and from 20 to 80 workers.20 That same year, Illinois’s overall homicide rate dropped by 25%, with a 47% decline on average in Cure Violence zones.21 From 2004 to 2006 state agencies directly invested a total of $10.8 million to implement and operate Cure Violence, making Illinois the program’s principal source of funding.22

Despite reliably impressive outcomes in active program sites, unpredictable state funding left Cure Violence Illinois vulnerable to politically fueled budgetary disagreements that have resulted in highly damaging funding lapses, site closures, and service disruptions. The program suffered major funding lapses in 2007, 2011, and 2015.23 Each of these lapses corresponded in time and place with significant increases in rates of violence in Chicago, the city with the highest concentration of program sites.

In the summer of 2007, for example, a budgetary standoff between the governor and the General Assembly effectively defunded the program, resulting in sweeping site closures. By the start of 2008, only two of Cure Violence Illinois’s 16 sites remained operational—the program lost over 90% of its staff, and hundreds of high-risk community members were abruptly left without services and support.24 Over the next year, Chicago saw an additional 416 shooting victims, more than 80% of whom were shot in districts where the Cure Violence program was shut down.25

As a Cure Violence report describes, “the loss of funding [in 2007] had a drastic effect on the number of…workers and clients…The number of highest risk participants fell from 529 to 0 for several months before the remaining outreach workers were slowly able to build back their caseloads to just over 100 participants. As a result, more than 400 individuals who were trying to get their lives on a better path found themselves dropped from the program and left without assistance.”26

Unfortunately, this funding lapse was just one of several that would shake the program in the years to come. Particularly in and around program sites, each of these lapses was punctuated by a marked uptick in violence that quickly reversed when funding was restored.27

In an effort to maintain their budget and continue administering services to the community, some fortunate sites were able to turn to private donors for support. However, when the state fails to maintain its commitment, most program sites are forced to close their doors or operate with a skeleton crew of unpaid or underpaid workers. Time and time again, Illinois has seen the harmful impact of unpredictable funding on violence reduction efforts.

The state’s most recent budget reflects a renewed commitment to robust investment in violence intervention and prevention programming. Not only has funding for the Cure Violence model been restored with a $6.1 million appropriation—the state has also added an additional $7 million in support for its Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention (CBVIP) Program, and a $12 million investment for “violence prevention and street intervention programming,” was added to the FY 2020 budget. Combined with a $1 million appropriation for an initiative run by the Saver Foundation, Illinois is investing an all-time-high of more than $26 million to support local violence reduction initiatives. Each of these newer investments is described below.

Community-Based Violence Intervention and Prevention (CBVIP) Program

Since 2018, Illinois has awarded $7 million dollars annually to community- and faith-based organizations and various state and municipal agencies through the CBVIP grant program.28 CBVIP aims to deter a wide range of crimes including “murder, gun violence, interpersonal and domestic violence, sexual violence, robbery, and aggravated or simple assault and battery.”29

To receive funding, grantees must work to “convene or expand an existing community coalition” that engages service providers, governmental agencies, law enforcement, and faith- and community-based groups to build awareness for support services that address the causes and consequences of violence through education, public presentations, and “awareness events”.30

Grantees must also provide at least one of the following direct services:

  • Street Intervention, outreach, and engagement or programs that provide crisis intervention and de-escalation services to youth and young adults at high risk for engaging in violence
  • Counseling and therapy services provided by a “culturally appropriate” mental health professional
  • Case management that effectively develops trust between agencies and the people they serve with the goal of promoting client retention
  • Youth development that builds the emotional, physical, social, and intellectual capacity of youth, promotes “prosocial life skills”, and helps young people practice conflict resolution31

Violence Prevention and Street Intervention Programs (VP-SIP)

For fiscal year 2020, the state of Illinois made available a total of $12 million for state violence prevention and street intervention grants and administration.32 Eligible applicants must join, convene, or expand community coalitions that engage service providers, governmental agencies, law enforcement, faith-based groups, and community members. These coalitions seek to raise awareness for available violence prevention resources, help develop partnerships that can meet the immediate needs of clients, and provide “pro-social” activities in the community.33

Grant recipients must also implement a “street intervention/interruption-active Outreach and Engagement program” targeting youth and young adults at high risk for engaging in violent behavior.34 To be eligible for funding, program staff and volunteers that engage with clients are required to complete trauma-informed training, meaning they have been taught how best to communicate with and provide support to individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences. In fact, all applicants are strongly encouraged to increase their knowledge of trauma-informed practices, and, “where appropriate, incorporate trauma-informed practices into proposed services.”35

Safer Foundation Fund

The state budget for fiscal year 2020 also appropriates $1 million to support the service agency Safer Foundation (SF) and its partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital’s Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI).36 This partnership “seeks to better understand the issues connected to gun violence in Chicago’s west side communities.”37 In addition to providing referrals to SF, SUHI hopes to build on their study of victims of nonfatal gun violence who are quickly treated and discharged with a goal of identifying needs, gaps, resources, and barriers to employment and workforce development. SUHI will also compare the needs of those with arrest or conviction records to those without them.38

Additionally, ICJIA funds will allow the Safer Foundation to provide more support to individuals participating in a higher level of credentialed training and job training, “including higher literacy, skill level, case management, and wrap around services.”39

Investing in Intervention

Illinois’s most recent investment makes it one of the largest funders of gun violence intervention and prevention programming in the country, on both an absolute and per capita basis. Only Massachusetts, which invests $3.00 per capita compared to Illinois’ $2.10 per capita, is doing more.

Illinois’s support for evidence-based strategies provides critical resources for cities and community-based organizations engaged in lifesaving work. This renewed commitment to violence prevention and intervention is a promising step in the right direction, but only time will tell if the state’s new grant programs are able to achieve success.

Other states that have chosen to fund violence intervention and prevention strategies over the long term, including Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, have witnessed substantial reductions in gun violence—saving both lives and taxpayer dollars. To learn more about how states are supporting effective evidence-based gun violence reduction strategies, see our report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence.

Notes
  1. According to CDC data, out of 19,510 total homicides in the US in 2017, 14,542 were committed with a firearm, which is nearly 75%. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, accessed October 9, 2019, http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html. ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2017, on CDC WONDER Online Database, http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html on Dec 14, 2018. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, 2018, Table 8,” US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed October 9, 2019, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/table-8/table-8-state-cuts/illinois.xls ⤴︎
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Compressed Mortality File, 2013-2017,” accessed April 22, 2019, https://wonder.cdc.gov/. ⤴︎
  7. Calculated by Giffords Law Center. Estimates of the cost of gun violence in Illinois were created using a model published in 2012 by economists at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). PIRE is a nonprofit research organization that focuses on using scientific research to inform public policy. This model can be found at www.pire.org/documents/gswcost2010.pdf. All cost estimates were adjusted to 2016 dollars. ⤴︎
  8. Charles Ransford, et al., The Relationship Between Cure Violence (CeaseFire) and the Increase in Shootings and Killings in Chicago, September 2016, http://cureviolence.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2016.09.22-CV-Chicago-Memo.pdf. ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎
  10. 2019 IL SB 262. ⤴︎
  11. Id. ⤴︎
  12. Grant Programs, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, accessed August 19, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/grant-programs. ⤴︎
  13. 2019 IL SB 262. ⤴︎
  14. Id. ⤴︎
  15. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Healing Communities in Crisis: Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic, 2016, https://lawcenter.giffords.org/healing-communities-in-crisis-lifesaving-solutions-to-the-urban-gun-violence-epidemic-glc/; for more information about the Cure Violence model and their work in other states and municipalities visit cureviolence.org. ⤴︎
  16. “Cure Violence Illinois (Cure Violence Chicago),” Cure Violence, accessed August 15, 2019, http://cureviolence.org/partners/us-partners/illinois-partners. ⤴︎
  17. Id. ⤴︎
  18. Id. ⤴︎
  19. Id. ⤴︎
  20. Charles Ransford, et al., The Relationship Between Cure Violence (CeaseFire) and the Increase in Shootings and Killings in Chicago, September 2016, http://cureviolence.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2016.09.22-CV-Chicago-Memo.pdf. ⤴︎
  21. Id. ⤴︎
  22. State of Illinois, Office of the Auditor General, Funding Provided By or Through the State of Illinois to the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention for the CeaseFire Program, Springfield, August 2007, https://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/Performance-Audits/07-CeaseFire-Pgm-Full.pdf. ⤴︎
  23. Id. ⤴︎
  24. Charles Ransford, et al., The Relationship Between Cure Violence (CeaseFire) and the Increase in Shootings and Killings in Chicago, September 2016, http://cureviolence.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2016.09.22-CV-Chicago-Memo.pdf. ⤴︎
  25. Id. ⤴︎
  26. Id. ⤴︎
  27. Id. ⤴︎
  28. “Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Budget Committee Meeting Minutes,” Feb. 28, 2018, accessed Jan. 3, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/assets/pdf/budget/Budget_Committee_Materials_062118_v2.pdf; State of Illinois Office of Management and Budget, Enacted Appropriations by Line Item FY 18 and FY 19, https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/budget/Documents/Budget%20Book/FY%202019/Enacted-Appropriations-by-Line-Item-FY18-and-FY19.xls. ⤴︎
  29. Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority Budget Committee Meeting Minutes, Feb. 28, 2018, accessed Jan. 3, 2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/assets/pdf/budget/Budget_Committee_Materials_062118_v2.pdf. ⤴︎
  30. Id. ⤴︎
  31. Id. ⤴︎
  32. 2019 IL SB 262. ⤴︎
  33. Uniform Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): Violence Prevention and Street Intervention Programs (VP-SIP), Version 3.6.19, accessed August 26, 2019, https://grants.icjia.cloud/funding/2019-street-intervention/FY20StreetInterventionNOFO.docx. ⤴︎
  34. Id. ⤴︎
  35. Id. ⤴︎
  36. 2019 IL SB 262. ⤴︎
  37. Safer Foundation Fund, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, August 26,2019, http://www.icjia.state.il.us/grant-programs/safer-foundation-fund. ⤴︎
  38. Id. ⤴︎
  39. Id. ⤴︎