A statewide Illinois anti-violence program with a chapter in East St. Louis can expect more than than $1 million in new funding and intense new scrutiny of its finances, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. CeaseFire, a network of mostly inner-city churches and community groups, tries to prevent shootings by intervening in disputes and staging marches to ostracize violent offenders. A prominent critic says the program is a waste of money. State Sen. Donne Trotter has asked the Illinois auditor general’s office to perform an audit on CeaseFire, which is to get $6.25 million in state money this year, a $1.4 million bump over last year.
Gary Slutkin, CeaseFire’s Chicago-based executive director, said the people whose opinions should matter most are the inner-city residents who have to deal with violence every day. Police in East St. Louis say murders have decreased in a crime-heavy part of the city where CeaseFire has worked since November 2004. Statewide, CeaseFire claims it prevented 300 homicides last year. “How can they say they’ve broken up 300 conflicts? Where’s the tangible evidence? There is none,” said Trotter. According to the Illinois State Police, there were 776 homicides statewide in 2004, the last year figures are available, 119 fewer than the year before.