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Ramsey Lewis was honored at a fundraiser for CeaseFire Chicago. 0

CeaseFire gets a shot in the arm from civic leaders

November 17th, 2017

Violence in Chicago may finally be taking a turn. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson says violence is down thanks to high-tech strategies I wrote about here. CeaseFire Chicago is back on the streets helping stop crime now that state funding has been freed up. And civic leaders, including jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, just raised $200,000 to boost CeaseFire’s budget.

The organization is a nationally known for taking a health-care approach to reducing violence. It dives in to crime-ridden neighborhoods the same way health-care workers swooped in to fight AIDS in Uganda and Ebola in West Africa. In Chicago (and New York and cities around the world), CeaseFire’s “violence interrupters” go into communities to talk to young people about making different choices.

“Violence is contagious,” says Charlie Ransford, senior director of science and policy for Cure Violence, the parent organization of CeaseFire. Cure Violence operates around the world. “Violence is best understood and treated as a contagious health issue, meaning that it spreads from person to person and can be treated using epidemic control methods.”

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A Northwestern University study found reductions of 41 percent to 73 percent in shootings in neighborhoods where CeaseFire has intervened.

“All you have to do is look at the correlation between the murder rate and CeaseFire operations on the street” to understand the impact, says Jeremy Kaufman, the CEO of Kaufman Jacobs commercial real-estate firm. He’s finance chair of CeaseFire/Cure Violence.

The nonprofit receives funds from foundations and health-care groups. But the bulk of funding comes from the state. During the controversial budget impasse, when CeaseFire didn’t receive funds, the city saw crime go up.

With the budget impasse resolved, CeaseFire Chicago has been allotted $5.2 million in funding, which allows it to hire 90 “interrupters” to fight crime.

But there’s still has a quirk in funding, and that’s where Kaufman and other civic leaders have stepped in.

Here’s why: CeaseFire runs on a July-through-June fiscal year budget. Funding isn’t distributed in one lump sum but dispersed when invoices are turned in.

Everything runs smoothly through much of the year, but by summertime, when funding is nearly used up, the city faces its highest levels of crime. Because the state takes a few months to pay on invoices, the organization sometimes lacks funds at the end of the fiscal year.

Supporters stepped in with a fundraiser to fill the gap. Ramsey Lewis was the star attraction and big names in business and philanthropy paid $400 a ticket (or as much as $16,000 for a table) to attend.

“This event was helpful to raise the funds so we don’t have to shut down sites where we have programs,” says Cameron Safarloo, Cure Violence chief operating officer.

Supporters for the event included Kaufman, Wintrust Financial Corp. Chairman John McKinnon; Feinberg Foundation President Janice Feinberg; Omneity Entertainment President Richard Weinberg; and retired businesswoman Barbara Kipper.

The fundraiser was so popular that CeaseFire is planning a follow-up discussion. “Violence Interrupter Symposium” featuring Cure Violence (and CeaseFire) “interrupters” will be held Dec. 7 at the Standard Club.

Correction: I’ve updated to clarify that state funding is $5.2 million.

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