Violence Prevention Organizations Reflect on 2020 Gun Violence Surge
Call for Increased Funding in Outreach and Community Approaches to Public Safety
Three leading violence prevention groups in Chicago came together today for a Zoom press conference to reflect on 2020’s surge in gun violence and to call for increased investment in community-based approaches to improving public safety.
Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), READI Chicago and Chicago CRED all participated in today’s press conference, where they both acknowledged the progress of the last three years in reducing gun violence has stalled even as their programs show results.
Vaughn Bryant, Executive Director of CP4P and Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, works with more than a dozen community-based groups in Chicago intervening directly in gang disputes, providing direct support services, and steering young people out of lives of crime. He said “our partners are making a difference and we have to take the long view. Change is rarely a straight line but rather a series of ups and downs on our way to the desired outcome.”
“For a host of reasons – COVID, the economy, the George Floyd protests and ongoing systemic oppression – tensions are running very high and that’s driving up the number of shootings. We also know that our outreach programs are reaching the young people most at risk and guiding them away from crime. We just need to do more of it and sustain the effort long term,” Bryant said.
Bryant cited research from Northwestern University showing that CP4P groups contributed to the drop in gun violence between 2016 and 2019. Specifically, the study identifies, “a decline in gun violence beyond what might be predicted from historical patterns.”
Eddie Bocanegra, the Executive Director of READI Chicago, which engages adult men in an intensive program to help them cope with trauma resulting from significant exposure to violence, and develop skills that create pathways to safety and opportunity, cited early analysis data from the University of Chicago Crime Lab that indicates a considerable reduction in gun violence victimization among participants.
“Early results show that the guys in our program are remaining engaged and that they are less likely to shoot or be shot than peers in their same communities. These are among the highest-risk individuals in the city. If we had sufficient funding, we could expand access to READI Chicago. We know that doing so would make our neighborhoods safer,” Bocanegra said.
Arne Duncan from Chicago CRED shared several data points supporting their case for more investment in violence prevention programs. According to the City of Chicago’s violence reduction dashboard, fatal and non-fatal shootings are up by about 50% citywide in the first eight months of 2020 compared to the same time last year.
However, in two adjacent South Side neighborhoods, Roseland and Pullman, where CRED has heavily invested in outreach, therapy, life-coaching, education, job training and placement, fatal shootings are down by 33 percent and 50 percent respectively. In both neighborhoods, the rate of non-fatal shootings is way below the citywide average.
“If we had the resources to invest in every community the way we have invested in Roseland, we could begin to bring down the gun violence to levels that are comparable to other big cities like New York and Los Angeles. Police can’t do it alone. The answer is in the community,” Duncan said.
Jalon Arthur, CRED Director of Strategic Initiatives, shared data from the FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) Program, which has recruited about 350 people to intervene in gang-related tensions and create a safe presence in 77 hot spots spread across 12 Chicago neighborhoods.
FLIP workers typically work afternoons through early morning hours. CRED has tracked 395 separate mediations and 22 non-aggression agreements negotiated by FLIP workers. When they are present at the hot spots, gun violence incidents have dropped almost to zero, said Arthur.
“There are many more hot spots than we can cover, but when our FLIP workers are there, negotiating non-aggression agreements and mediating disputes, we’re saving lives,” Arthur said.
Duncan said that the organizations are grateful to the City of Chicago for investing $11M this year in violence prevention. He also saluted Cook County for investing $5M in violence prevention. But Duncan pointed out that local and state governments are still spending billions on public safety, prosecutions and prisons while most of the violence prevention programs are privately funded.
“Violence prevention is barely a rounding error in our public safety budgets. It’s long past time to begin shifting resources from over-policing, prosecutions and prisons and give many more young people a real chance in life through these kinds of programs. Chicago can lead the nation if we start to think and act differently,” Duncan said.
While recognizing that the city faces enormous budget challenges, the groups have called for $50M in city funding as well as major investments in state funding. A coalition of nurses and activists also called on Cook County last week to shift $157M in public safety dollars into community programs.
For More Information:
Peter Cunningham Chicago CRED, 312-636-8619, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridget Hatch Metropolitan Family Services, 312-579-6541, email@example.com
Mailee Garcia – Heartland Alliance, 312-498-2143, firstname.lastname@example.org