Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined the members of the Mayor's Commission for a Safer Chicago as they presented their report and a series of proposals to address youth violence. The Commission is an outgrowth of a series of three roundtable forums held this summer, in which leaders from City government, faith groups and community organizations gathered to discuss joint efforts to combat gun violence and strengthen communities.
"The powerful work being done between city government, community leaders, faith leaders and youth is a testament to the fact that the best ideas don't necessarily come from city hall," said Mayor Emanuel. "Together we have taken important steps forward, and I am committed to making sure the Commission for a Safer Chicago is a permanent fixture in youth violence prevention because their input reflects the wisdom and voices of people in neighborhoods throughout Chicago."
The Mayor's Commission for a Safer Chicago brings together over 130 City staff, community and faith leaders, practitioners, subject matter experts, parents, and youth, to provide tangible solutions to address youth violence. The group also engaged more than 200 youth from 15 Chicago communities in moderated discussions, ensure young people's ideas and feedback are part of the solutions developed.
This report, the Commission's first, is the result of intensive collaborative work throughout the fall of 2014. The Commission was tasked with updating for 2015 the City's strategic plan for youth violence prevention, with recommendations that build on current investments and leverage existing City and community resources. In keeping with its shared belief that violence is preventable, not inevitable, the Commission focused for this report on strategies designed to identify and intervene with youth at risk for becoming involved in violence.
"This has been such a great experience," said Evelyn Diaz, Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services. "People from across our city came together not just to talk about the problem of violence, but to roll up their sleeves and work side by the side with the City to develop meaningful solutions."
The report includes 28 recommendations to prevent youth violence through employment, health, restorative practices in schools, safety and justice, and safe places and activities. Included are:
• Survey our summer jobs program participants and connect them to existing year-round training and development opportunities.
• Add 8 new "peace rooms" in Chicago Public Schools staffed with parents who are trained in restorative justice and conflict resolution.
• Pilot a homicide crisis response protocol to connect families to counseling and services
• Develop a coordinated plan in 3 target neighborhoods to make sure youth can safely get to after-school activities.
• Expand the RISE pilot, which diverts arrested youth away from the justice system and connects them to mentoring and service learning.
• Expand Bridging the Divide, which helps Chicago police officers connect with youth in positive ways.
"I am very pleased that so many of us have come together in a community-driven process to address our public safety challenges," said Eddie Bocanegra, co-director of the Youth Safety and Violence Prevention of the YMCA of Metro Chicago. "We all know the City can't do this alone, however, and the Mayor is listening and responding by ensuring we can all contribute to the solution."
The Commission made recommendations in five issue areas, each designed to address the risk factors and root causes of youth violence - youth employment, health and healing, crating restorative school communities, safety and justice, and safe spaces and activities.
"Violence prevention isn't just the city's responsibility, it is all of our responsibility," said Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes. "I really think this is a call to action. Whatever, your passion, wherever in the City you live, there is a way to be involved in the solutions that are part of this plan. We thank the Mayor for convening this group, for listening to what the community has to say, and for working with us to implement these ideas."
The series of roundtables that led to the Commissions' formation has already yielded a number community-driven anti-violence initiatives including: the Mayor previously announced $50,000 for Youth Peace Grants to ensure youth can drive solutions in their own communities, an expanded fugitive apprehension partnership between Chicago Police and State Police, and a commitment from Get In Chicago - a private/public partnership that complements the City's efforts to improve neighborhood safety - to release an RFP for another round of grant funding up to $3.5 million.
"The dedicated men and women of the Chicago Police Department are the backbone of public safety," said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy. "But reducing crime and violence over the long-term requires a community-driven effort, and the Commission's work is an important step in the right direction."