Sunday, 11 October 2009

Chicago's Youth Crime Spiral

The 2007-08 school year shocked the City of Chicago.

By the end of the academic year 24 public school children were murdered, (21 of them shot), and another ten died over the summer. The previous academic year there were 'just' 10 to 15 killings.
This prompted Mayor Daly to proclaim a sort of 'state of emergency' and called together police, school officials, community groups and leaders - especially those in the black community. The media also got aboard and the goal was to take the existing resources, together with some new ones, and ensure that they were all pulling in the same direction. I blogged about the issue and summit in a series of posts entitled Chicago: Getting to school a public safety issue. I also wondered why we hadn't reached such a state of emergency yet.

So how has Chicago fared more than a year later ? Not very well, I'm afraid.

The 2008-09 academic year saw the number of students killed rise to 37 with at least 2 more deaths over the summer. Of those, 34 had been shot. (source)

As for 2009-10, Chicago's Public Schools did not get off to a good start. The year was barely 3 weeks old and 6 students had been shot, 2 of them died. (source) A more recent incident, which garnered international headlines, was the beating death of Derrion Albert which was caught on a mobile phone cam and uploaded to Youtube.
The Harvard School of Public Health, which considers youth crime not just a police matter but a public health issue, has compiled some of the most recent press on Chicago's youth crime wave. Many experts are calling on a deeper, more wide-ranging effort than simply more cops and more cash, which hasn't had any impact since 2007. Still, the most recent actions to counter the the problem have been to add more police and throw more money at it. Chicago is going to have to get creative and are in for the long-haul fighting this frightening new wave of youth crime.
Here in Winnipeg we are also experiencing a spike in crime. Though not at the same scale and not tied as closely to schools, there are similarities: gang-oriented; youth-centred; increasingly gun-related; similar socio-economic conditions in the effected neighbourhoods; most perpetrators and victims are from an ethnic minority underclass.

Hopefully the powers-that-be are paying attention to what is happening in Chicago. Perhaps we can take those best practises that they are,and will be, learning from and
apply them here before we go too far down this path.

Some additional tidbits:

- The Chicago Public School Board, with 410,000 students in it's care, now spends a whopping $55m per year on security measures (that's before the Oct. 2009 funding announcements). (source)

- L.A.'s public schools have double the student body and 'only' 23 killings in the 2008-'09 academic year. (source)

- Since Jan. 1, 2009
more than 40 Chicago children have been killed in 'violent incidents'. (source).


Youth murders: Chicago's lost generation
The Guardian (Video 13 min)

- Chicago Students at Risk of Violence: It has to do with statistics and probability
New York Times Oct. 7, 2009

- Holder, Duncan, Daley: Chicago youth violence press conference
Transcript, Oct.7, 2009 Press Conference

- Blocking the Transmission of Violence
The New York Times Magazine May 4, 2008

1 comment:

unclebob said...

If the budget for prevention continues to rise at about the same rate as the crimes are escalating, why has anyone not considered that there might be a link?