County Board Discusses Whether to Fund Cease Fire

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After the state of Illinois didn't come through with their funding, Cease Fire Rockford is asking the local level to fund the anti-violence program until June.

On Monday, the city announced Cease Fire will be included in this year's budget. Now, Winnebago County will decide whether to include the program under the jail sales tax as an alternative rehabilitation program. Some board members disagree.

"Instead of sentencing somebody to the jail, sentencing them to a program that is an alternative, and I have questions on whether this program fits the bill," John Sweeney said.

Cease Fire director Reverend Ralph Hawthorne says while Cease Fire isn't the defined alternative, it's the ultimate violence prevention.

"Not only do we want to keep people out of jail, we want to save lives, and we want to make certain communities change," Hawthorne said.

Sweeney is concerned if Cease Fire gets funded from the jail sales tax, hordes of other anti-crime groups will ask for a similar county handout.

"Again, they do wonderful work, but I'm not sure for this one percent sales tax. We've had requested from many different organizations to expand their programs on the original charter of this money. We can't open that door," Sweeney said.

Hawthorne is optimistic the county board will see Cease Fire's value based on Rockford's crime rates that dropped last year.

"We want to help these communities understand that violence is not the normal thing. We want to change the thinking," Hawthorne said.

Cease Fire leaders hope the county's thinking will help the anti-violence program stay afloat locally.

Should the Public Safety Committee make their recommendation on Wednesday, the Winnebago County board will vote on cease fire funding question at next Thursday’s board meeting.