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Rockford, Illinois, uses federal stimulus funds to reach kids trapped in violence

Rockford Illinois mayor
Posted at 4:22 AM, Oct 07, 2021

The money flowing to cities and states from the American Rescue Plan is so substantial and can be used for so many purposes that communities across the U.S. are trying out new, longer-term ways to fix what’s broken in their cities.

In Rockford, Illinois, the city decided to spend part of a roughly $54 million federal windfall to overhaul its approach to juvenile crime. That meant hiring a data analyst and improving the way the whole city — from police to schools and social service agencies — interacts with young people.

Of the roughly $2 million Rockford received from the American Rescue Plan, the city decided to create the Family Peace Center.

There, domestic violence victims can get an emergency order of protection, find counseling, help with food and housing and other services under one roof. Rockford police also work out of the center. It’s a multiagency approach that city officials now want to use for juvenile crime.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara called the investment a “once-in-a-lifetime sum of money.”

There is no guarantee any of the experiments will work, and in Rockford’s case, it will be years before anyone can say for certain. But after a year when homicides and the number of people injured in shootings doubled, city leaders are taking a calculated risk.

“By and large, for 30 years, we have been addressing crime in the same way,” McNamara said. “We know we can’t keep doing things the same way.”