Advocates Set Goal to Reduce Gun Violence

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthA coalition of organizations revealed their ambitious plans for 2020 as they aim to reduce gun violence by at least 20 percent as Chicago’s homicide rate is closer to Los Angeles and New York City. A 20 percent reduction in homicides would bring the number below 400 for the first time since 1965. Since a dramatic spike in shootings and homicides in 2016, gun violence has declined 13-15 percent in each of the last three years. Police attribute the decline to better use of technology and a growing partnership with violence prevention organizations and community outreach workers.

In a recent speech at the City Club of Chicago, Interim Chicago Police Superintendent Charlie Beck credited progress, in part to “street outreach workers” with “ties throughout the community.” He added, “My job is the last homicide. Your job is stopping the next homicide.” At a convening at South Shore Cultural Center this week, advocates and outreach workers affiliated with Metropolitan Family Services, Heartland Alliance, Communities Partnering 4 Peace, READI Chicago and Chicago CRED joined with police officials, faith-based leaders, funders and others to embrace Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s goal of becoming, “The safest city in America.”

Currently, Chicago’s homicide rate is five times the rate of New York and three times the rate of Los Angeles. To match the L.A. rate, homicides in Chicago would have to drop by 20 percent every year for five years. To match New York, it would have to drop 20 percent each year for seven years. According to the Chicago Crime Lab, homicides in Chicago dropped by 25 percent in 2004 and both New York and L.A. experienced 20 percent declines several times in recent decades.

“We know 20 percent is ambitious, but we also know it’s possible through citywide collaboration and investment in our communities. Every shooting we prevent saves lives, restores hope, and brings us one step closer to breaking the cycle of violence and trauma. Our data is showing us that this can work,” said Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of READI Chicago.

This year, for the first time, the City of Chicago is investing more than $11 million to support violence prevention programs, up from about $1.5 million in 2019. An umbrella group of foundations known as the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities has also invested roughly $75 million in the last three years to prevent violence. The coalition is urging the City and the State to dramatically increase funding for violence prevention, while committing to continue raising private dollars. At the same time, they are asking business leaders to invest in crime-plagued communities and hire young men at risk who need a path into the legal economy.

“We are all in this together and the only way we can really change the conditions that breed crime is to invest in these young people and give them a chance,” said Arne Duncan, who is the founder of Chicago CRED. Duncan said CRED would periodically issue updates on Chicago’s progress toward the goal over the course of the year. Faith-based leaders, outreach workers and program participants also spoke at the event.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

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