The county board on Tuesday approved new programs led by the state’s attorney’s office targeting the prevention of gun violence and domestic violence in Lake County.
A Domestic Violence Prevention Partnership with the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic (NSLAC) was established in part with a grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Partnership includes an emergency appropriation of $200,000 in federal funds for one year.
The state’s attorney’s office said they will collaborate with NSLAC to reduce intimate partner violence, create treatment opportunities exclusively for first-time misdemeanor offenders and provide comprehensive services for victims.
The funding will pay for a full-time Domestic Violence Prevention Partnership coordinator in the state’s attorney’s office, training for staff, outreach materials and a full-time staff attorney at NSLAC dedicated to providing legal assistance to victims.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said domestic violence has been on the rise in Lake County since 2017.
“With this treatment program and partnership with North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic we will join with other collar counties, like Kane, in reducing incidents of domestic violence while also providing support and legal assistance to survivors,” Rinehart said.
“We are grateful to all of the decision-makers who saw the worth and potential to the community and particularly to survivors of intimate partner violence in deterrence over incarceration. This partnership with the State’s Attorney will do so much good and has unlimited potential. Thank you so much to everyone who worked on this grant. We cannot wait to get to work,” said Rebecca Weininger, Director of Domestic Violence Law Practice at NSLAC.
The second program approved Tuesday is a Gun Violence Prevention Initiative (GVPI) funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Funding for the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative approved by the Lake County Board provides the state’s attorney’s office with $560,000 for the program’s operation.
Rinehart said he worked with Lake County administrative staff and the Finance & Administration Committee to seek funding from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act apportionment for the initiative.
The funding will be used to hire a full-time director for the GVPI who will be tasked with identifying and providing micro-grant funding to capable community-based organizations.
The community-based organizations will manage teams of violence interrupters in targeted areas around the county.
Mayors in Waukegan, Zion and North Chicago were all presented with the plan and submitted letters to the Lake County Board in support of its creation.
“In 2021, my office secured funding for a Violent Crimes Unit that would allow our most experienced prosecutors to immediately collaborate with police agencies on the most serious cases, such as murders and shootings. The GVPI’s work will be to prevent those incidents from ever happening and to prevent the cycle of retaliation,” Rinehart said.
“While violence prevention work is not something typically overseen by a prosecutor’s office, I believe our office is uniquely situated to address the causes of violence on a countywide level,” Rinehart said.
Funding is expected to be available by April 2022 for the GVPI and Rinehart said he will be staffing the unit “as quickly as possible.”
The state’s attorney’s office will be finalizing protocols surrounding the program in the next few months and will be implementing a “rigorous vetting process” to identify organizations that will receive funding to hire violence interrupters, Rinehart said.
The state’s attorney’s office recently applied for additional funding through the state’s R3 Program in order to provide more sustainability to the GVPI.