City of Chicago’s Youth Violence Prevention Plan
Violent crime in Chicago is at a nearly 30-year low, yet the city’s rate of violence is still staggering. In 2011, 433 people in Chicago were murdered—double to triple the murders per capita in peer cities like Los Angeles or New York City. Violence is particularly devastating for Chicago’s youth: in 2010, 1,109 school-aged youth were shot, and 216 of those were killed. Nearly half of Chicago’s homicide victims are young people between the ages of 10 and 25.
Chicago’s anti-violence effort is set apart by our truly multidisciplinary approach to ending youth violence. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle joined together to lead an unprecedented cross-agency, cross-sector effort to address violence in the Chicago region. The partnership includes 50 leaders from government, faith, community, business, media, foundation, and research. It is expanding to neighborhood leadership, with hundreds more involved from both government and communities.
There are many factors that lead to youth violence, and they must be addressed in different ways. Chicago’s initiatives seek to address as many of these factors as possible, using combinations of Prevention, Intervention, and Response (Enforcement and Re-Entry). While current violent offenders must be stopped, we will focus primarily on Prevention as a long-term strategy. The earlier we can prevent violence—including by building up young people’s families and communities—the more effective we will be.
- Gang intervention: The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is currently running gang interventions modeled on the Boston “Operation Ceasefire” Model in four districts. In this intervention, law enforcement, service providers, and community figures deliver a unified message to gang members to stop the violence or face a targeted and unified response from the Chicago Police Department and its Federal partners.
- Youth Shooting Review: Based on a model from Milwaukee, the Youth Shooting Review will bring experts from government and non-profit agencies together to analyze the factors leading up to specific youth shootings. The review panel will then use this analysis to recommend intervention strategies and policies to prevent future youth shootings.
- One Summer Chicago: Summer programming helps keep young people out of trouble when school is out of session. To help more young people find summer activities, DFSS has launched the One Summer Chicago program (Page ), which places high-risk youth in productive summer jobs.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / Social Emotional Learning initiatives: Social Emotional Learning is a process that helps young people learn these vital emotion-management and interpersonal skills. The State of Illinois has pioneered statewide standards to address social-emotional skills. Programs such as Becoming A Man (B.A.M.) Sports Edition have also taught social-emotional skills using the model of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which trains young people to understand how their thoughts affect their actions.
- Safe Passage: When students are afraid of becoming the victims of violence, it is difficult for them to attend and engage in school. Safe Passage, an initiative run by the Chicago Public Schools, places “Community Watchers” along pre-defined safe routes to keep students safe as they travel to and from school. The program is currently being implemented in 35 high schools in crime-heavy areas.
- Gang School Safety Team: Gang School Safety Team, a CPD initiative, aims to prevent youth violence from escalating through retaliation. Whenever a young person is the victim of violence, Gang Enforcement police officers go to the victim’s school and work alongside school officials to discourage the victim’s associates from participating in retaliatory violence.
- SAFE Communities: To help neighbors come together to maintain public order in neighborhoods plagued by gang activity, narcotics sales, and street violence, CPD launched SAFE Communities, a program that helps build collaborative networks of community stakeholders. While enforcement operations are taking place in a targeted area, police engage key community stakeholders and encourage them to work together.
- Chicago Safe Start: Chicago Safe Start (CSS), led by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH)’s Office of Violence Prevention, is a program to help reduce the negative impact of violence on young children. CSS helps raise awareness of children exposed to violence (CEV), expands CEV services, and helps educate other agencies on CEV.
- Jail Alternatives and Diversion: Cook County is using jail alternatives and diversions to help keep young offenders from committing future crimes. For example, people awaiting trial or serving probation can report to a center to participate in programming rather than being put in jail. This programming can include completing courses for high school credit, which helps put young offenders on a track to completing high school.
- Aftercare services: The Aftercare Services program, piloted by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) in Cook County, aims to help youth who are leaving the Illinois Youth Centers re-enter into communities and avoid future crimes. IDJJ collaborates with families and communities to create an aftercare service plan for each youth. The program also helps support re-entering youths’ mental health and/or substance abuse needs.