27 Jul 2016

Community Solutions for Violence Paint a Brighter Picture of Chicago’s Neighborhoods

The following is a response to a recent Chicago Tribune article, "10 Shootings a Day: Complex Causes of Chicago's Spiking Violence," which we submitted to the newspaper's editor.

In the article “10 Shootings a Day: Complex Causes of Chicago's Spiking Violence,”(July 1), the writers proffer a one-dimensional, sensationalistic, and incomplete perspective of the neighborhoods in which a number of shootings have taken place. While touching briefly upon some of the issues contributing to high rates of gun violence, the article ignores others, such as historical redlining, gentrification (which pushes rival gangs closer together), and misidentifying many shootings in particular neighborhoods as “gang-related.” The State’s failure to adopt a budget has defunded social services, and violence intervention and prevention programs.

We strongly object to the depiction of the featured communities as devoid of assets. The inference one is led to draw is that residents are either criminals or hopeless -- and those who are hopeless are but one step away from becoming lawbreakers themselves. Describing neighborhoods as destinations along the “heroin highway” replete with “hardened young men” and drug baggies does nothing to inform readers about the complex and intertwined causes of violence; it only serves to dehumanize entire communities and discourage our support. Far from being beyond our care and understanding, all of these communities contain assets in the form of religious institutions, civic leaders, advocates, grassroots organizations, schools, families, and individuals who act every day to improve their neighborhoods.

peace walk crowd

If police have assumed the fetal position in response to recent scrutiny, it is because their favored practices lie outside the scope of what is permissible. Police have always had the lawful tools and discretion granted to them by the Constitution and outlined in case law. If they feel they are hamstrung, then it is time to re-evaluate policies and realign with the rule of law.

Until we provide additional resources and stop broad-brushing communities as beyond hope, supporting politicians who refuse to ensure funding for critical services, and excusing police who say they are powerless to help, we will have a much harder road ahead. We believe in our communities and investing in initiatives to promote solutions to violence, increase economic and educational opportunities, repair and restore fractured relationships between police and communities, eradicate over-policing, prioritize mentorship of youth, make affordable housing available, create safe spaces for civic engagement, and draw on strengths. We challenge our city to partner with us in a hopeful vision of what is possible.

Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance
Alliance of Local Service Organizations

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