CPS students safer despite rising Chicago violence, officials say

SHARE CPS students safer despite rising Chicago violence, officials say

In this 2016 photo, a Safe Passage worker watches students arrive on the first day of school at Kelvyn Park High School. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel prepared to deliver his address on curbing Chicago’s rampant crime, city officials Wednesday pointed to decreases in student violence as one “glimmer of hope.”

One-third fewer Chicago Public School students were shot in the 2015-16 school year than in the 2011-12 school year when the mayor first took office. Over the same period, crimes also fell by a third within a block of Safe Passage routes during daytime school hours, officials said.

Chicago Public School notifications to the police about crimes and emergency situations decreased even more significantly — 38 percent, authorities said.

In an interview, CPS safety chief Jadine Chou acknowledged that some of the decreases  in crime stats — counted in district-run schools only, not in growing charter schools  — could be due to a 5 percent decrease in enrollment schools.

She also noted that school code-of-conduct changes in 2013 required administrators to report fewer types of infractions to police.

Still, she insisted that students are safer now than five years ago.

“We’re moving in the right direction but we recognize there is a lot more that needs to happen,” Chou said.

She said the coordination between the schools and police in Chicago is “unprecedented” compared with many other cities. CPS and the police Gang School Safety Team identify students at risk of being harmed or hurting someone else, she said.

“24/7 we will go in and do an intervention” with the students in a conflict, Chou said. In the last school year, 175 of those were done — and none of those students became a victim of gun violence, she said.

Chou also said she’s seeing a reduction in major offenses such as “mob action” that schools must report to the police.

“When I started with CPS [in 2011], this was much more frequent. Every month, there was another set of students who would be taken into custody for a large lunch fight, for example,” Chou said.

Now such situations are “very rare,” she said.

“The school climate has improved significantly,” Chou said.

Chao emphasized that mentoring programs such as Becoming a Man have helped reduce violence and boost academic performance among students.

She said students are safer off campus because of the city’s expanded Safe Passage program. About 1,300 workers are monitoring students’ walking routes around 142 schools at a cost of $17.8 million this school year, she said.

The city released its school crime statistics to the Chicago Sun-Times in advance of Emanuel’s scheduled crime speech Thursday night. Earlier this week, police Supt. Eddie Johnson revealed one element of the mayor’s strategy: hiring 970 new officers over the next two years and promoting hundreds of other officers to supervisory and detective positions. Johnson said he didn’t know how the city intends to pay for the additional cops.

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