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Lightfoot debuts sweeping multiyear plan to combat Chicago violence

The plan’s stated goals run the gamut from requiring law enforcement officers to be licensed to expanding career and housing opportunities in the city’s poorer and more violent areas to “enacting equitable public safety legislation on the local, state and federal levels.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke Monday at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaking last week at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The city unveiled a sweeping anti-violence plan Tuesday that will govern Chicago’s public safety efforts for more than two years.

The plan — dubbed “Our City, Our Safety: A Comprehensive Plan to Reduce Violence in Chicago” — was crafted over the last year by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration in collaboration with several other government agencies, and it will focus on five pillars, each of which has a series of short- and long-term goals.

“Just as Chicago has come together to fight the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our communities, we must do the same to address the immense challenges they continue to face due to violence of all kinds,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

The plan’s five pillars are empowering and healing people; protecting and securing public places; improving and advancing policing; affecting public policy; and planning and coordination.

The stated goals run the gamut from requiring law enforcement officers to be licensed to expanding career and housing opportunities in the city’s poorer and more violent areas to “enacting equitable public safety legislation on the local, state and federal levels.”

“Put simply, without addressing the root causes of disinvestment, poverty, and inequitable social policies, Chicago’s violence reduction efforts will fail,” the 81-page plan reads.

Some initiatives are already in the works, while others are in the planning phase and still need funding secured. Ideally, the plans will be put into motion by May 2023 — the end of Lightfoot’s term.

Through Sept. 27, the city recorded 581 murders so far in 2020 — a 50% increase from 2019 — according to data from the Chicago Police Department. Over the past 10 years, more than 5,000 people have been murdered in Chicago.

“Our City, Our Safety” will prioritize 15 neighborhoods on the South and West sides, where shootings are most common. Those neighborhoods are Austin, North Lawndale, Little Village, Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Englewood, West Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing, South Shore, Back of the Yards, Chicago Lawn, Roseland and West Pullman.

“Only a sustained effort over several years rather than months will untangle the web of root conditions which fuel the violence and hopelessness that is the everyday experience of too many Black and Brown Chicagoans, and is spreading to all Chicagoans through this time of immense uncertainty,” the plan states.

“This plan assumes that violence is not an intractable problem but rather a public health crisis that is preventable and treatable through an intentional, coordinated, and sustained effort based on national best practices and available evidence.”

Though ambitious, the plan comes as the city faces a $2 billion budget shortfall for 2020 and 2021. City officials declined to give even a ballpark estimate of the new plan’s cost.

Chicago and Cook County have lost thousands of Black residents in recent years. Public safety concerns, as well as lack of economic and educational opportunities, are often blamed for the exodus.

The new plan calls for a large-scale reconsideration of the CPD’s role in maintaining and fostering public safety in Chicago.

Rebuilding trust between police and residents in violence-stricken communities “will involve a variety of actions, including fulfilling the requirements of the Consent Decree, re-thinking the role of police in public safety and expanding opportunities for alternate first responders to mental health crises, improving mental health support for officers, and improving diversity recruitment efforts.”

One of the plan’s short-term initiatives is to create a co-responder pilot program, in which a mental health professional would respond to a mental health situation with a Chicago police officer. The mental health professional would then work to connect the person in crisis with additional resources outside of the criminal justice apparatus.

The plan’s unveiling comes as the city continues to negotiate with the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing Chicago’s rank-and-file cops. The union has been largely resistant to recent reform efforts — spurred by the shooting of Laquan McDonald — and recently rejected a contract offer from City Hall.

“Our City, Our Safety” also calls for a public acknowledgment and to “advance reconciliation efforts related to torture and other racist acts by CPD.”