Gun violence 'interrupters' to be part of Lake County's prevention effort

Lake County formally accepts $1.5M grant

  • Authorities earlier in November seized dozens of firearms from the Grayslake-area home of a man accused of threatening to kill family members.

    Authorities earlier in November seized dozens of firearms from the Grayslake-area home of a man accused of threatening to kill family members. Courtesy of Lake County Sheriff's Office

Posted11/16/2022 5:00 AM

The Lake County Board on Tuesday officially accepted a $1.5 million federal grant to prevent gun violence.

Funds will pay for personnel, equipment and other costs associated with the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative. The program was announced in June by Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart and is in the hiring stage.


The grant is from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Justice Programs Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative.

It will help continue funding for a program manager, 13 "violence interrupters," computer equipment and printed materials as well as a gun violence prevention director, youth outreach coordinator and technical assistance from national training programs, according to Steve Spagnolo, spokesman for the state's attorney's office.

The grant runs through Sept. 30, 2025, and is in addition to funding previously received from the county and state, Spagnolo said. Other funding will be sought to continue the program for years going forward, he added.

The purpose of the initiative is to work with community-based organizations to hire interrupters to reduce gun violence with a focus in Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion, according to county officials.

Plans are to engage residents, community leaders, businesses, faith leaders, service providers and high-risk individuals to build coalitions and develop strategies to reduce violence.

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According to Rinehart's office, the initiative will collaborate with law enforcement, educational leaders and community-based organizations to address the long-term causes of gun violence.

Interrupters will work to quickly address and de-escalate day-to-day gun violence that has been increasing in Lake County since 2017, according to the state's attorney's office.

Two weeks ago, Rinehart's office announced that the Coalition to Reduce Recidivism and Waukegan Township would manage the interrupter program.

Rinehart in a statement at the time said a program expected to last for years is being built with local, state and federal grants. He said the coalition has a track record of success.

"This selection is critical to the short-term safety and long-term security of our communities in Lake County," he said.

Vernon Hills resident Sara Knizhnik was a leader in forming the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative and is in charge of implementation. The county board member-elect said the organization was founded with the priority of ending gun violence that happens daily in 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," she said in the statement.

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