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Report: Anti-violence program study flawed, costly

Published: Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:09 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO – A researcher who took over a high-priced study of Gov. Pat Quinn's now-defunct violence prevention program says in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that missing data made it difficult to evaluate the program.

The $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative is the focus of an ongoing legislative inquiry following a scathing state audit. The newspaper report, published Saturday, raises questions about why program officials chose a half-million-dollar study that didn't measure violence levels over more in-depth research that would've been free.

Auditors learned the University of Illinois at Chicago study wasn't designed to evaluate whether the program met its goal of reducing violence despite its $498,351 price tag. The University of Chicago Crime Lab had offered to do a more rigorous study for free, the audit found.

Quinn spokesman Grant Klinzman told the Sun-Times the governor wasn't involved in discussions about the research.

The initiative sought to target violent crime in 23 Chicago neighborhoods. Quinn's critics have derided it as a political slush fund to drum up city votes before a tight 2010 election.

The UIC contract required researchers to track whether agencies getting state money in the program were actually providing jobs, counseling and post-prison re-entry services.

"We were getting data late and sometimes in a format that wasn't useful," UIC researcher Marc Atkins told the newspaper. "There was some missing data, particularly in the first year." Atkins, director of UIC's Institute for Juvenile Research, took over the study after the original lead researcher left about a year into the program.

"We carried it out the best we could under some challenging circumstances and tried to provide as informative reports as we could," Atkins said.

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