Chicago Gangs…What Will it Take to Stop the Violence?

Week after week Chicagoans hear of more murders, more shootings, more senseless deaths- often young children and teens caught in the cross fire. These deaths mark a “disturbing trend that makes the streets of the Windy City even deadlier than Kabul, Afghanistan” with homicide deaths in Chicago (228 citizens) outnumbering the U.S. troops that have perished this year (144 soldiers).

Have we become numb, desensitized or even complacent when we turn on the news and listen as more lives are taken? Or are we fed up? What does it take to end the violence?

Chicago is starting to gain worldwide attention for all the violence, and our city seems helpless. Even our police appear to be losing hope about how to take care of the communities. “Much of that responsibility falls on the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, a position that is so intense, political, and high-profile that former chiefs say they never expected to hold on to the job for more than a few years.”

Over the 4th of July weekend, we heard that 5 more are dead, and 21 are wounded from gang violence. Days prior, 7-year-old, Heaven, was shot in the back from stray bullets shot by feuding gang members. An innocent child was taken from her mother because of gang violence. Law officials state that 80 percent of the shootings and homicides are gang-related.

As the death toll rises, we too look helplessly on a city we love, and wonder what can be done to curb the violence? It is terrifying.

Initiatives have been implemented, such as Ceasefire, which is a violence prevention program aiming “to reduce shootings and killings by using highly trained street violence interrupters and outreach workers, public education campaigns, and community mobilization. Rather than aiming to directly change the behaviors of a large number of individuals, CeaseFire concentrates on changing the behavior and risky activities of a small number of selected members of the community who have a high chance of either “being shot” or “being a shooter” in the immediate future.” The program is considered “promising”, but what else can be done?

Recently, an in-depth Frontline documentary, The Interrupters, aired on PBS, raising awareness about the violence in Chicago. The documentary explores the “stubborn persistence” of crime that plagues Chicago, and follows the stories of the “violence interrupters”, Ameena, Cobe and Eddie, as they go about their work for Ceasefire. The film attempts to make sense of what CeaseFire’s Tio Hardiman calls, simply, “the madness”. Watch the entire program here.

As the city gets warmer, more gang related deaths seem to occur. In an effort to help curb urban crime, here are 6 ways to prevent even more statistics this summer.

1. Create More Summer Jobs for Teens

Summer jobs give teenagers the opportunity to learn job skills, and keep out of trouble. With idle time, “inner-city youth without summer jobs often wind up dealing with the temptations of the street and wind up joining gangs and participating in criminal activity. Summer jobs will not only help the short term goal of stopping crime this summer, but will also provide young people with the necessary experience and training for adult careers.”

2. Enforce Stricter Gun Laws 

Every year, illegal guns flood in from neighboring gun-friendly states. “These guns are the guns that fuel inner city violence.” Legislation needs to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, and perhaps develop a bullet identity system, which would require handgun manufacturers to mark bullets with unique identifiers. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns.org outlines a 57 page blueprint on regulation, enforcement and best practices to combat illegal gun trafficking.

3. Change the Culture of Violence

“Rappers are one of the few examples of people who have made it out of urban, poverty stricken neighborhoods, so young people from those environments tend to look up to and emulate rappers.” You can’t place blame on rappers, but rather idols. Youth need role models, and whether they find support and guidance from a family member, a friend, or a celebrity, we must be conscious of the message they are exposed to. Media, websites and culture often harbor and encourage violence. Music has often been the scapegoat, but these lessons start at home. Talk to your kids. Mentor. Volunteer. Help educate.

4. Support Prison to Work Programs

Ex-convicts, many released for non-violent crimes, have a terrible time finding a job after serving their sentence. With a felony on their record, many employers won’t give them the time of day. “The prison system is supposed to rehabilitate prisoners, so they can re-enter society, but often it just helps to just submerge prisoners even more into the criminal lifestyle. This leads to a revolving door prison industry, where inmates come out more violent and gang connected than they were when they came in. Prisoners who are given career skills and opportunities are less likely to return to lives of crime and violence than those who haven’t.”

5. Understand the Drug War

Drugs fuel a lot of crime in Chicago. The problem, according to James Gierach, a lawyer for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is “because both the good guys and the bad guys are in favor of it. The bad guys are in favor of prohibition because the only place you can get it is from them. And the good guys are protecting the growing prisons and subcontractors. You have to hire more judges, prosecutors, more probation officers, more parole officers, more drug counselors, and more drug testing labs, ticking off a long list of industries that benefit from the criminalization of drugs. So what we end up with are the good guys riding the drug war gravy train same as the bad guys.”

6. Communicate with Local Law Enforcement

We recently wrote about how property managers can help reduce crime in their neighborhood, and this same rule applies. Unfortunately, police are often viewed as the enemy in urban communities, and this creates a barrier between the citizens and the police. Gangs run rampant, terrorizing the community. Citizens can bridge the gap of communication by viewing the police as a resource. “If more people in urban neighborhoods were willing to cooperate with the police, many violent criminals could be apprehended and both police and residents of urban areas would not have to worry so much about violent crime.”