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Durbin Says Illinois, US Needs To Address Racial Violence

Amanda Vinicky

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, said recent racial killings underscore the need for conversations about race relations and law enforcement, but there are also systemic issues that need more specifically addressed.

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Durbin spoke Sunday about last week’s killings of two black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota and the subsequent killings of five law enforcement officers in Dallas during a peaceful rally. There's been several racially charged, high profile police shootings in the past two years, including the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald in Chicago.

"The reasons for (the violence) are many, involving drug trafficking, involving gangs and broken families," he said.

Law enforcement agencies in the state said in March that program cuts to youth diversion programs and community-based services were increasing the likelihood of more crime.

Durbin said he's glad Illinois has a stop-gap budget, but the year-long budget crisis didn't help reduce violence in Chicago.

"I can't specify that the state budget equals more violence," he said. "I wouldn't go that far. But I will tell you, it creates an environment of vulnerability."

The short-term budget passed by the state at the end of last month restored funding for youth programs like Ceasefire and Redeploy Illinois. But Durbin said the budget stalemate exacerbated the problems people in the poorest neighborhoods in the state face, such as drug trafficking and gang activity. The year-long budget impasse meant Illinois cut off resources for anti-violence programs.

At least 344 homicides have been reported in Chicago so far this year.

Durbin said he'll be pushing for more gun regulations this week in Congress.

Copyright 2016 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Sarah Mueller