Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart, GVPI Chair of Implementation Sara Knizhnik, Waukegan Township Supervisor Marc Jones, and GVPI Youth Outreach Coordinator Trey Baker (Left to Right). | Provided Photo

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office announced they have selected a coalition to manage the new gun violence interrupter program, which aims to reduce violence in Waukegan, Zion and North Chicago.

The state’s attorney’s office said they selected the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism and Waukegan Township as the agency that will manage the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative’s (GVPI) violence interrupter program.

The funds that are being provided to the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism and Waukegan Township from the GVPI will be used to hire a program manager and three teams of interrupters who will work primarily in Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion.

“This selection is critical to the short-term safety and long-term security of our communities in Lake County. Through our local, state, and federal grants, we are building a program that will last for years. We are so thrilled to be partnering with the Coalition, which has a track record of success in all Lake County communities,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.

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Waukegan Township Supervisor Marc Jones thanked Rinehart for his “forward-thinking approach” to address the influx of gun violence plaguing Lake County communities.

“We collectively agree that the responsibility to act belongs to each of us, and the time is now. Waukegan Township and the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, are extremely humbled and excited for the opportunity to serve as fiscal agents and administrators for the GVPI,” Jones said.

“The intentions of the GVPI are in alignment with the overall objective of the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism, particularly due to the provision of necessary resources and wrap-around services, essential in lessening violent crimes,” Jones said.

“As lifelong Lake County residents, we fully believe this is a legacy building opportunity, not only impacting those of us here today, but creating and sustaining a viable and impactful program for generations to come,” he added.

In June, Rinehart announced the formation of the GVPI and invited community organizations to submit proposals to manage teams of violence interrupters.

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In collaboration with law enforcement, educational leaders, and other community-based organizations, the GVPI aims to address the long-term root causes of gun violence, Rinehart said.

The “interrupters” will rapidly address and de-escalate the day-to-day gun violence that has been increasing since 2017 in Lake County, Rinehart said.

One of the leaders in the formation of the GVPI and the Chair of Implementation, Sara Knizhnik, said the GVPI is founded on the “clear knowledge that we must prioritize ending the gun violence that happens every day in our most vulnerable communities.”

“By putting professional violence interrupters at the center of the work and then building an infrastructure of support around them to address root causes of gun violence, we will make all residents of Lake County safer,” Knizhnik said.

Rinehart said that the GVPI was made possible with an initial investment by the Lake County Board through an ARPA allocation.

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Additional funding was provided through budget legislation from State Representative Rita Mayfield and Senator Adriane Johnson.

The funding will provide for a program manager, a youth outreach coordinator, 13 interrupters and technical assistance from national training programs.

The GVPI will also be aided by Marcus McAllister, a “nationally renowned interrupter trainer” and Lake County resident, the state’s attorney’s office said.

McAllister has helped set up dozens of violence interrupter programs throughout the country for nearly 20 years, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

“The opportunity to work in the community that I call home to reduce gun violence is dear to my heart. I have helped numerous organizations throughout the country launch successful violence interrupter programs,” McAllister said.

“I expect nothing less here, especially with the broad support that the GVPI is providing, and the strong community relationships built by the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism and the Township,” McAllister added.