You are hereViolence Prevention
In spite of reforms, Chicago remains an incredibly violent city, and to say that the level of violence in Chicago is unacceptable is a shocking waste of breath. What is perhaps more disturbing, however, is how Chicagoans have ceased to be shocked. Intellectually, we know there is a problem and that something should be done - but violence, guns, and death in certain neighborhoods have been normalized. “I think people in Chicago have almost gotten numb to the statistics,” says Dexter Voisin, researcher of the impact of violence on adolescents at the University of Chicago.56
Just as videos of police brutality had the power to shock not only the United States but the world, the video of the street brawl that killed CPS honor student Derrion Albert rocked Chicago.57 Understanding something intellectually is no comparison to having visceral evidence, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, video carries the weight of the Oxford English Dictionary.
There are many theories as to why violence is so prevalent in certain communities. Sociology has long linked poverty and deprivation to disorder, and therefore the increase in economic hardship to a correlation in increased violence. Psychologists look towards factors that affect developmental processes, from familial backgrounds to environment to nutrition.58 Some community groups blame the poor education system and the subsequent lack of opportunities available.59 Others claim poor parenting and a lack of cultural discipline. Mayor Daley seems to have adopted the “it takes a village” theory, although his village ends at neighborhood borders: “The answer is in this community. Look inside your hearts... look inside your homes... you know who did it. Don't be blaming the police... look in the mirror and say, 'I can do better'”60
We suspect that, as is the case with most complex issues, none of these theories are wholly correct, and that the truth is an amalgamation of all mentioned above – and more besides.
While it is impossible to discuss the roots of violence without discussing economic development, education, environment, etc., this section details the measures the city is taking to address actual violence, as opposed to its causes: police training/beat alignment, community policing, and violence prevention programs.
Who's Got the Beat?
As president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Mark Donahue is not happy about the number of field training officer vacancies in the Chicago Police Department - the men and women who provide rookie cops on-the-street training. Donahue says that when the field training program is working, the training officers can show inexperienced police how to work with the community, a key to improving relations as well as reducing crime.61
But providing rookie cops with direction does not seem to be a priority for the city.
As of August, the department had only 149 field training officers on the payroll, well under the 267 called for in the 2008 budget. Worse, Donahue says, the department recently decided to half the number of police districts that use the field training program down to 6 out of 25. Further, veteran cops interested in participating (or teaching) in the program would have to transfer to a new district, which is “a huge disincentive,” according to Donahue. “As many as 50% of training officers are going to be resigning because of the stipulations they’ve put on them… It’s unthinkable that the department would make such a decision."62 The city has a $420 million dollar budget deficit and seems willing to eliminate these unfilled positions altogether, as well as push others into early retirement.63
From a civilian perspective, spending money on police dedicated to training officers to work within a specific community is infinitely more desirable than creating more positions on the Mobile Strike Force.64 Beat cops – those assigned permanently to a specific neighborhood – have a much lower rate of complaints than the mobile units that roam the city.65 They create relationships with the people in the neighborhood and have a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the community. Although the benefits of beat cops have been acknowledged by past superintendents, none have implemented the changes that they promised.
Superintendent Weis has similarly failed to follow through on his intentions, and has instead revived the tried (and failed) roaming units - the “jump out boys”.66 As Tio Hardiman, Director of Gang Mediation and Community Organizing at CeaseFire, comments: “There used to be a time when the beat officer would know everybody on his beat... Back then, people respected the officers patrolling their beat; now, talking to police has become a taboo in most poor communities. The beat officer has to be reintegrated into the community."67
Death by Inattention
The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program was once emulated around the nation and recognized as being highly successful at integrating the community, police, and services. At its height in 2002, an estimated 70,000 people attended meetings at more than 200 beats, though by 2008 that number had dropped to 49,000, and 2009’s shrunk even further. Although questions remain surrounding the legitimacy of these figures – an average of 15 people attend each meeting and at least 50 percent of those are repeats – Chicago continues to have one of the most comprehensive and successful community policing programs in the country.68
In a few short years after its inception, however, CAPS has become a stumbling, ineffective institution that no one – not even the police themselves – takes seriously. In August 2008, CPD dropped overtime pay for officers who attended beat meetings or CAPS events while not on shift.69 Instead, on-duty supervisors attend the meetings, the sergeants and lieutenants that Vance Henry, CAPS director, says will “increase the efficiency of [the] meetings.” Community and religious leaders don't buy it, saying that the change cripples any joint community policing efforts once the officers who know the neighborhoods they patrol are no longer involved in the process. “It's the indispensable part of the community policing,” said Rev. Marshall Hatch, “and I don't see how we can still say we have community policing without the beat officers interacting with the community in those meetings 70
Mayor Daley used to highlight CAPS as one of his largest accomplishments as Mayor, but his attention – or belief in the program's efficacy – has fallen to the wayside. Today, he is pushing a more high-tech approach to policing: “The future is cameras,” he said, and indeed the city has heavily invested in new surveillance equipment. By the end of 2008, 3,200 cameras were linked to the Department's Crime Prevention and Information Center.71 But cameras cannot replace the CAPS program, which used to organize neighborhood police to help the community with projects like Take Back the Night and barbecues, and even recruit officers to be coaches in the Targeting Youth Program. For all its faults, it connects police to the neighborhoods they serve.
"Violence gets transmitted the same way as other communicable diseases,” says Gary Slutkin, founder and executive director of CeaseFire 72 , an organization that utilizes an “evidence-based public health approach” to reduce shootings.73 “We train 'violence interrupters' to prevent escalation" by offering street-level outreach conducted by those with intimate knowledge of the problem: reformed gang members and former shooters.74 "I'm not interested in stopping all the drug dealing. The drug problem is bigger than me and it's bigger than the brothers selling the drugs," says Tio Hardiman. "We work to directly change the thinking and behavior of the young people, and to mediate conflicts that can become violent."
The CeaseFire concept has a seemingly unlikely supporter. Superintendent Jody Weis has said that he believes the best approach to gang fighting is to make them a useful part of the community: “When I came here 12 years ago [as an FBI agent] I was invited to a meeting with people doing community policing and all the evaluations of it, and they asked me what I thought. I suggested they invite young people and gang members and ask them what's going on. That was the last meeting I was invited to.”75
CeaseFire, while not a perfect organization, has had some impressive results. 76 A recent Department of Justice study—conducted over three years by four universities—found that CeaseFire zones saw a reduction in shootings that ranged from 41 to 73 percent. In five of eight CeaseFire neighborhoods surveyed—Auburn-Gresham, Englewood, Logan Square, Southwest, and East Garfield Park—there was a 100 percent reduction in retaliatory murders. CeaseFire has now been implemented in 18 communities, all of which are inner-city Chicago neighborhoods with above-average violent crime rates. The first wave of CeaseFire zones saw shootings reduced by a range of 41 to 73 percent, versus a 15 percent reduction in comparable communities. The most recent CeaseFire statistics indicates that shootings dropped nearly 50 percent in the first year of implementation, compared to a 9 percent increase in neighboring communities.77 CeaseFire is not the only organization in Chicago doing this type of work, however. At least four other organizations offer similar programs, the largest being Build, Inc., an institution that works exclusively with at-risk youth in schools and on the streets to promote educational and career potential.78
With such lauded, successful programs, why does the city continue to see such alarming degrees of violence? Ceasefire claims that the biggest challenge is their inability to cover large swaths of the 200+ square miles of the city. In addition, in spite of the statistical indications of success, before CeaseFire began there were generally over 600 homicides each year, but in 2004, when CeaseFire received funding to go into multiple Chicago communities, homicides dropped to under 450. CeaseFire lost funding in 2008.79
As a result of state budget cuts, CeaseFire was forced to layoff 150 of its workers, while Black Star, a similar (albeit smaller organization), had to lay off 3 people in a staff of under 10. Phillip Hampton, Chicago's new Alternative Policing Strategy Director, sees this as a problem: “[CeaseFire and similar programs are] very important to us holistically. The police definitely can't do this alone – CAPS program, too, has suffered cuts, as has any city agency... We're concerned about the overall impact it will have on our efforts to have a vibrant and safe community.”80 As Dr. John Hagedorn, associate professor of Criminology, Law and Justice and senior research fellow at UIC's Great Cities Institute, believes: “Isn't 40 years of war on gangs long enough? Police need to work cooperatively with community leaders and gang members to alleviate violence.”81
|56: Andre Billups, “36 Chicago area students killed sets record,” Washington Times, 13 May 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/13/record-36-students-kille....|
|57: Craig Kanalley, “Derrion Albert funeral touches lives across Chicago,” ChicagoNOW, 3 October 09, http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/breaking-tweets-chicago/2009/10/derrion-....|
|58: John Monahan, “The Causes of Violence,” The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 1994, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_n1_v63/ai_15155540/.|
|59: see economic development section about AAs Kristen Kridel, “Daley visits slaying site: ‘You know who did it,’” Chicago Tribune, 8 November 2007.|
|60: Mick Dumke, “Police Positioning,” Chicago Reader, 25 September 2008, http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2008/09/25/police-positioning.|
|61:Mick Dumke, “Police Positioning,” Chicago Reader, 25 September 2008, http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheBlog/archives/2008/09/25/police-positioning.|
|62: Some aldermen have suggested that CPD could keep more jobs if they gave away some of the more costly perks. On top of their regular pay, officers receive $730 every three months for “duty availability,” that is, simply being on call, even though they get additional overtime pay if they actually have to take an extra shift. They receive another $600 every three months to pay for new uniforms, and they can take a check for any furlough time they deserve but don’t use. These benefits add up to about $73 million a year. But “duty availability” keeps police from taking second jobs, and when they are called for extra duties, it can be for events like the Inauguration of a President. They receive no help from the city to buy uniforms which can conceivably become tattered during the course of their service, and while an argument could be made that getting a check for unpayed furlough time is uncalled for, it is time the police must be compensated for somehow, and an officer not taking all furlough days equals a cop working more then he needs to. Unfortunately, these perks (except for the furlough days) are in no way monitored. Many officers take additional jobs. There is no accountability for the uniform money either. This additional $1,330 every three months equals an extra $443 per month, which adds up to over $5,000 extra per year. That is less of a perk and more of a “this could bump me into a new tax bracket” bonus.|
|63:Donahue does not appreciate the aldermen’s' suggestions. "The average police officer coming out of the police academy onto the force is going to make an investment of $7,000 to $9,000 dollars—the department doesn’t buy the uniform, doesn’t buy the guns, doesn’t buy the shoes. What would the aldermen say if we proposed cutting the money for their staff and expenses?" Considering that only 4 Aldermen voted against a salary increase for themselves this year, that is a fair question.|
|64:“Cops stepping up curfew enforcement, strengthening controversial unit,” The Huffington Post, 14 April 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/14/cops-stepping-up-curfew-e_n_186....|
|65: Tracy Siska, “Homicide reductions = violence reductions = CPD doing a better job?” Chicago Justice Project, 6 July 2009, http://www.chicagojustice.org/articles/homicide-reductions-violence-redu....|
|66:Tracy Siska, “Homicide reductions = violence reductions = CPD doing a better job?” Chicago Justice Project, 6 July 2009, http://www.chicagojustice.org/articles/homicide-reductions-violence-redu....|
|67:Danny Fenster, “Taking a Stand Against Guns,” Gapers Block, June 2008, http://gapersblock.com/detour/taking_a_stand_against_guns/.|
|68:Chip Mitchell, “Community Policing in Chicago Loses Steam,” ChicagoPublicRadio.org, 21 May 2009, http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=34349.|
|69:Bill Healy Samantha Abernethy, “Deadly 2008 in Chicago: What happened?” Medill Reports, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/govt/story.aspx?id=122539.|
|70: Paul Meincke, “Budget cuts out overtime pay for CAPS meetings,” abc7chicago, 11 August 2008, http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=6320210.|
|71:Bill Healy Samantha Abernethy, “Deadly 2008 in Chicago: What happened?” Medill Reports, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/govt/story.aspx?id=122539.|
|72:Andy Coghlan, “Treating killing like a disease to slash shootings,” NewScientist, 1 July 2009, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17402-treat-killing-like-a-disease....|
|74: Andy Coghlan, “Treating killing like a disease to slash shootings,” NewScientist, 1 July 2009, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17402-treat-killing-like-a-disease....|
|75:Steve Rhodes, “Critics Blast Budget for Cuts to CAPS,” NBC Chicago, 18 October 2008 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/Critics_Blast_Budget_for_Cuts_....|
|76: Illinois' auditor general has criticized CeaseFire for poor accounting methods|
|77:Meghan Clyne, “Taking it to the Streets,” Philanthropy Roundtable, Fall 2009, 1 August 2009, http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/article.asp?article=1592.|
|80: Steve Rhodes, “Critics Blast Budget for Cuts to CAPS,” NBC Chicago, 18 October 2008, http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/Critics_Blast_Budget_for_Cuts_....|
|81: Danny Fenster, “Taking a Stand Against Guns,”Gapers Block, June 2008, http://gapersblock.com/detour/taking_a_stand_against_guns/.|