It’s Monday. You pick up the paper or scroll through Twitter. The mayor made an announcement. The Cubs won a double-header. It will be sunny today. Four people were murdered over the weekend.
It’s Tuesday. Two people were shot last night, including a little boy.
It’s Wednesday. A mother was killed by her boyfriend.
It’s Thursday. It’s Friday. It’s the weekend again and ten people will be killed, 16 shot.
Then it’s 2019 and you read that 561 Chicagoans were murdered last year.
You make a pot of coffee.
We have experienced so much gun violence as a city that the problem can feel insurmountable at best and unsolvable at worst. That’s because there is no coordinated plan — at all levels of government — to stop the bullets.
But it’s not another Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday in New York or Los Angeles or the other top ten most populous cities in the United States. That’s because our peer cities have taken steps to stop the violence and save lives.
Both New York and Los Angeles have coordinated, holistic, and publicly-funded plans to dramatically reduce gun violence centered on prevention, intervention, and community coordination and support. As a result, New York reached a new low of 287 murders in 2018 and Los Angeles has experienced a 30 percent reduction in homicides since instituting a comprehensive community-based strategy in 2007.
Chicago is a smaller city than our peers, but experiences more homicides. So why can’t we do the same?
The truth is we can … if we want to.
Historically, the response in Chicago to a violent night or weekend is to put more police officers on the streets. The presumption is to deter through police deployment, but the focus should be on prevention — and that happens before criminals become criminals. We all recognize policing has its place among the tools to reduce violence, but we also know increased police presence is not the solution.
As Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has said, “The violence in Chicago is not a police-driven problem, and it’s not just for the police to resolve. We need the police, the community, elected officials, clergy — everybody has a vested interest in resolving the crime issue in Chicago.”
Across headlines and press conferences, though, we constantly disregard Johnson’s words. We ignore the need for a coordinated strategy that will actually reach those who are most likely to shoot or be shot because the truth is, this will take a significant financial investment, and no one wants to pay the bill.
Let’s end this cycle of using the same tactics over and over, expecting different results, and take a page from our peer cities and adopt an approach that works. Chicagoans deserve true government leadership and investment to reduce gun violence in our city. Chicagoans deserve a legitimate investment to reduce violence, and it is our belief that that means $150 million every year from the city, county, state and federal government to fund coordinated, comprehensive public health and safety resources in the 15 communities at the highest risk for violence.
With this investment, we can provide jobs, counseling and trauma support for families, street outreach to mediate conflict, and so much more.
Let’s not consider more than 560 murders in 2018, though a decline in the number of murders from the year before, to be progress. Let’s acknowledge that while these numbers move up and down, they remain far too high.
Yes, we were glad to see the drop in homicides in 2018, following a spike since 2016. Without a meaningful plan in place, however, this trend will plateau to the numbers we saw for years before this spike.
Cities that become safe have a specific goal and plan for violence reduction — broken out by neighborhood. Then every week, the city reviews where violence has taken place and makes course corrections as needed. If we as a city implement a similar comprehensive, coordinated strategy, we can collectively set a realistic goal to reduce homicides by another 30 percent next year, seeing a reduction to under 400 homicides — a number we haven’t seen since the 1960s.
Let’s all do our part to change the daily headlines. Call or visit your elected officials and tell them we deserve a real plan to dramatically reduce gun violence in our city. Let’s take bold, substantial action so that 2019 is the year Chicago makes national news for a different reason — because we’ve made our city safer and stronger.
We cannot settle for good enough when it comes to public safety. It’s time to change what just another Monday means for Chicago.
Kim Foxx is the Cook County state’s attorney. Arne Duncan, secretary of education under President Barack Obama, is managing partner of Chicago CRED, which works with local businesses to lift up youth and boost Chicago’s economy.
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