CHICAGO – Illinois officials on Monday kicked off a youth violence prevention week by calling attention to the shooting death of a 6-month-old Chicago baby, but did not offer new strategies or funding to address the problem.
Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck instead talked up the importance of creating awareness and pointed the public to the department’s website, which includes a link on cyberbullying. The appearance at a new Chicago children’s hospital marked the start of National Youth Violence Prevention Week.
Quinn has recently focused on violence in Illinois. He spent the last two Sundays at Chicago houses of worship reiterating his call for an assault weapons ban and pointing to last week’s slaying of Jonylah Watkins, who was shot while sitting on her father’s lap inside a vehicle. Police had initially said she was shot while her father was changing her diaper, but they clarified details of the incident Monday.
“It should be an alarm bell to all of us that we need to do more and more to end the violence,” Quinn said of the baby’s death. “Violence is a public health menace. We have to use public health strategies to take on and prevent violence.”
Hasbrouck said the first step is to increase awareness and then focus on programs that work.
The renewed attention to youth violence comes shortly after Quinn proposed a state budget that calls for more than $400 million in cuts to elementary, secondary and higher education. Quinn has said he’s retained funding for early education, but had to make the cuts because of the strain Illinois’ nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension debt – the worst in the nation – puts on other spending.