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Blog: CeaseFire's effectiveness questioned by state auditor back in 2007

Updated: November 14, 2012 12:48AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post originally appeared on the Sun-Times Politics Blog.

The scoop in Tuesday's Chicago Sun-Times by police reporter Frank Main about the effectiveness of CeaseFire isn't the first time such questions have been raised about the group.

Five years ago, Illinois' top auditor questioned what exactly taxpayers were getting in return for millions of dollars in state funds that were invested with CeaseFire.

A 2007 report by Auditor General William Holland scrutinized $13 million in state spending on CeaseFIre and concluded no state standards existed to measure the group's anti-violence work.

On Tuesday, Main reported that after more than three months into a $1 million contract with the city, a ranking police source said the anti-violence group has "no significant success stories." The group disputed that claim, insisting it had made a dent in crime in the areas covered by the city's new anti-violence pilot program.

"To me, they've never proven their worth," said state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who was behind the original Senate resolution that got Holland moving on his CeaseFire audit of five years ago.

In the auditor general's analysis of shootings in Chicago, Holland found no consistent correlation between the group's work and reductions in violence.

From 2001 to 2005 in the Chicago Lawn District, Holland found shootings dropped by 70 percent and 73 percent in two police beats where CeaseFire was active. Yet, seven of the district's 15 beats saw greater drops. Holland found the same trend in two other districts.

In response, then-police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the city could document no evidence that CeaseFire's work actually lowered violent crimes.

"While CeaseFire has made progress in delivering their message on anti-violence, the department has no concrete evidence their programs have contributed to the reduction of crime in the city," Bond said at the time.

In the same 2007 Sun-Times report, CeaseFire founder Gary Slutkin vouched for his group's work and questioned Holland's credentials to analyze crime data.

"We've been doing what the intent of the General Assembly is, which is reduce shootings, make neighborhoods safer, get residents involved and get very high-risk people into a better life," Slutkin said at the time.

On Tuesday, a top administrator with CeaseFire told the Chicago Sun-Times that the anti-violence group was feted in a federally-funded report in 2008.

In an analysis of the group's work, Northwestern University researchers and other criminologists involved in the study "gave a resounding yes" to CeaseFire, said Dan Cantillon, the group's director of research and evaluation.

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