Aldermen dismiss gun violence prevention proposal for efficacy concerns


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) attends a City Council meeting. Aldermen rejected Miller’s proposal at Monday’s meeting for a gun violence prevention program that would add five youth outreach workers to city staff.

Julia Jacobs, City Editor

Aldermen rejected a proposal Monday to add five full-time youth outreach workers to help combat gun violence in Evanston.

Ald. Brian Miller’s (9th) proposal that would have put more “boots on the ground” to address violence in the community left other members of City Council with questions as to how effective additional employees would be in reducing violence that stems from more entrenched problems such as joblessness.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said adding outreach workers is not the answer to issues of violence often caused by people lacking jobs or homes. Although Evanston’s progress in alleviating the problem is not always apparent, an ongoing community effort aims to implement lasting solutions, Holmes said.

“It’s going to take more of an effort of us coming together as a community to get rid of some of these problems,” Holmes said at Monday’s meeting. “We have to do something that is going to be sustainable.”

Miller’s plan, which also included new violence prevention programming and police officer training, would have cost the city about $472,000 — funds that Miller said he intended to come from new revenue sources. In Miller’s initial proposal, funds for the program would come from increased seat belt violations fines and an added fee for vehicle tows, as well as tax revenue from the city’s marijuana dispensary that first opened its doors to the public Monday.

However, Miller’s idea for how to fund the anti-violence program were disqualified by information from city staff. Because the state caps seat belt violation fines at $25 and there is already a tow fee that is paid to the towing company, those ideas were counted out as potential revenue sources.

Additionally, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the approximation Miller used for marijuana dispensary tax revenue — $141,000 for a year of collection — is a high-end estimate. In its proposed 2016 budget, city staff had already allocated $50,000 to the general fund for revenue from the dispensary tax, which amounts to 6 percent of marijuana sales.

A spotlight fell on the conversation in Evanston about gun violence prevention in September when the second gun-related homicide within about two weeks occurred in the city. In the nearly two months of Evanston Police Department’s new violence reduction program — in which officers are deployed each day with the intention of recovering guns off the street — 13 firearms have been collected and 21 gang members arrested as a result of the initiative.

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said it is important for the community to realize the city is making progress with its current anti-gun violence initiatives, even if those effects are not always obvious to residents.

“We come at the issue of gun violence and crime and gun possession from every direction,” Grover said. “Maybe it is time to really promote what plans we have, what strategies we’re already deploying so people understand the big picture of what’s happening in Evanston.”

Despite the aldermen’s rejection of the requested addition to the 2016 proposed budget, Miller remained convinced that more outreach workers would be effective in reducing violence in the community.

“The only way we’re going to connect people to the necessary services is through reaching out to them,” Miller said. “They need dedicated resources, hence why I think we should put staff on this problem.”

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