The unit will focus on preventing violence and addressing conflict in Chicago via community Peacekeepers
Ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services are launching a Citywide Crisis Prevention & Response Unit (CPRU), a highly mobile team that is specifically designed to prevent violence and address conflict and crises in the City of Chicago. The CPRU will coordinate with community-based organizations and City and State agencies to deploy 30+ trained neighborhood “Peacekeepers” and street outreach partners to provide essential assistance in de-escalation, conflict resolution, and crisis support across Chicago.
“The most important work we do is keeping our communities safe, and this is another important step towards addressing violence and conflict through research-based, community-focused approaches,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “IDHS is creatively utilizing their funding to find high-impact solutions to the current problems facing Chicago, and I’m thankful for their hard work heading into the summer months.”
“The CPRU is an essential tool in keeping our communities safe because these individuals bring invaluable insight and knowledge that allow us to reduce conflict before it escalates, so we are proactive instead of reactive in addressing the causes of violent crime,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “In preparing for Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer in Chicago, it is critical that we have as many stakeholders as possible at the table to ensure peace and safety on our city’s streets.”
Peacekeepers will also help prevent the emergence of violence altogether by ensuring the presence of trusted and recognizable community members in locations where violence might emerge, even when residents are outside of their home communities or attending large events. CPRU builds on the FLIP (Flat Lining Violence Inspires Peace) model, a recently launched program by the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention.
FLIP partners with young residents from high-risk neighborhoods, empowering them as Peacekeepers who receive a stipend and conflict de-escalation training. The program addresses conflicts in high-risk blocks and provides engagement opportunities for those most at risk. CPRU is firmly grounded in an equity framework and is dedicated to fostering community engagement through the establishment of strong partnerships with local expert organizations and the implementation of comprehensive anti-violence strategies.
“As we implement the Citywide Crisis Prevention & Response Unit (CPRU), we remain committed to the core principles of equity and community engagement. By investing in holistic anti-violence strategies and partnering with local organizations, we are reimagining public safety and empowering neighborhoods in Chicago’s most at-risk communities. Together, with our partners, we strive to build a city where safety and support are accessible to all, leaving no community behind,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services.
The Reimagine Public Safety Act (RPSA) funds violence prevention services in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods and other communities with a high rate of gun violence, throughout Illinois, employing holistic, neighborhood-level anti-violence strategies and will resource this strategy. In 2022, Governor Pritzker invested into violence prevention services, including summer job support for youth, mental health services, and on-the-ground conflict resolution ambassadors. Service providers work closely with IDHS and the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention to engage in neighborhood-level work within Chicago’s most at-risk communities.
The Peacekeepers within the CPRU undergo comprehensive training including, crowd de-escalation tactics, crisis interruption, and program referral and support. This expanded training equips violence prevention coordinators to operate beyond their typical neighborhoods to address other areas of potential conflict or crisis, such as recent large teen gatherings in downtown Chicago or mass casualty events.
Under the guidance of the CPRU Director and Regional Leads, deployment responses are managed on a case-by-case basis, allowing for real-time adjustments based on emergent needs. This flexibility ensures an agile and efficient approach to conflict and crisis management. IDHS has coordinated closely with providers to ensure that the CPRU operational Memorial Day Weekend and will expand throughout the summer, historically a time of increased violence in Chicago.
CPRU is designed to center equity in anti-violence work, ensuring that the staff deployed to serve communities are representative of and share backgrounds with those communities. In addition to their conflict and crisis response duties, CPRU staff will also provide additional support for neighborhood-based work, ensuring that essential resources are not depleted from impacted neighborhoods during emergencies. Funding for State fiscal year 2023 will amount to $750,000.