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Investigating the 2016 surge in firearm violence in Illinois, USA, through community-based organisations: a qualitative study.

BACKGROUND: Illinois experienced a historic firearm violence surge in 2016 with a decline to baseline rates in 2018. This study aimed to understand this 2016 surge through the direct accounts of violence prevention community-based organisations (CBOs) in Illinois.

METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with 20 representatives from 13 CBOs from the south and west sides of greater Chicago metropolitan area. Interviews were audio recorded, coded and analysed thematically.

RESULTS: We identified lack of government-derived infrastructure and systemic poverty as the central themes of Illinois's 2016 firearm violence surge. Participants highlighted the Illinois Budget Impasse halted funding for violence prevention efforts, leading to 2016's violence. This occurred in the context of a strained relationship with the criminal justice system, where disengagement from police and mistrust in the justice system led victims and families to seek justice outside of the judicial system. Participants emphasised that systemic poverty and the obliteration of community support structures led to overwhelming desperation, which, in turn, increased risky behaviours perceived as necessary for survival. Participants disproportionately identified that this impacted the young people in their communities.

CONCLUSIONS: Lack of government-derived infrastructure and systemic poverty were the central themes of the 2016 firearm violence surge. The insights gained from the 2016 surge are applicable to understanding both current and future surges. CBOs focused on violence prevention offer insights into the context and conditions fuelling surges in the epidemic of violence.

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