Chicago Crime Surges: Is It Time for Families to Leave?

Chicago Crime Surges: Is It Time for Families to Leave?

As I gaze out of my apartment window here in Chicago wondering where, and not when, the next random shooting will take place (23 last night alone), I can't help but recall a quote by Martin Niemöller that graces the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in D.C.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
 Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – 
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

For the three years I’ve lived in this city, I’ve heard countless stories of gang violence and of innocent children being murdered as they travel to and from school. I’ve perused online articles about muggings and stabbings and those who are afraid to leave their homes after the sun sets. And I’ve done nothing, because the crimes happened in a different part of the city and didn’t directly impact me. But now they do. Violence in this city is spreading like wildfire, and many of us parents are wondering if we’ve made the right decision to stay in Chicago to raise our families.

I can’t help but be angry. Angry at Rahm Emanuel for not publicly addressing the issue of crime and angry at our police superintendent Garry McCarthy for not having an effective and implementable plan. I’m angry that this city is too broke to provide the social services direly needed to support families and at-risk youth. And I’m angry at myself, because I’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing but watch, in silence, as other areas of this city have suffered. And now we all suffer.

So now what, Chicagoans? Do we encourage our leaders to institute policies that have worked in New York City, such as Stop and Frisk (which I find racially-biased), misdemeanor arrests, and the like? Do we even trust that our elected and appointed officials are doing what’s necessary to reduce crime? And what can we do ourselves to make this city safe?

There are so many questions. Although I’m not an expert in any way, I'm going to throw out some ideas to get us moving. Please comment below and add your thoughts. Argue, criticize and disagree with me, come up with better ideas, or vent and talk about how the crime spree has influenced how you see our city. Just do – or say – something. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and claim that the crime epidemic in Chicago is someone else’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem to solve, not just those with fancy titles, but everyone who wants this city to be a safe place to raise a family. The time to act is now.

1. Implement Ceasefire

In 2006, David Kennedy, a professor from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, helped Cincinnati police identify and engage key players in the city’s crime circles. The result? Cincinnati witnessed a dramatic decrease in violence, producing a much better outcome than the city’s previous “zero-tolerance” policies.

2. Get Involved

This week a 12-year-old, Abby Greenberg, was Windy City Live  talking about how she collected more than 150,000 names for a petition to ban plastic bags in her community. A 14-year-old, Julie Bluhm, successfully rallied Seventeen magazine to stop airbrushing every model who appears in its pages. If  these two girls can impact major industries and state government before they're even eligible for a driver’s permit, what is wrong with the rest of us? Petitions, rallies, community task forces, town halls - things will only get better if we get off of our couches, off of our iPads, and do something.

3. A Spin-off of Donor’s Choose

Have you heard of Donor’s Choose? A college grad launched this program 12 years ago. It lets donors like you and me sponsor specific programs for schools. Since this town is essentially bankrupt, maybe non-profits and other agencies can join a site that lets us select and fund whatever programs we like. If our city has no cash, we have no choice but to fill in the cracks with our own resources.

4. A Family March to Millennium Park

Maybe this is a little crazy, but what about organizing a march with our families to get this city to take crime seriously? It would be a ton of work, but I think it will show Mayor Emanuel and others that we mean business.

I've got other ideas, about decriminalizing minor drug possessions, tougher gun laws, mentoring programs, internships and educational opportunities to engage our youth. When teenagers are bored and have nowhere to go all day, they are more likely to get into trouble. That's just a fact, whether you're in Chicago or anywhere else.

I welcome you to disagree and critique these ideas and offer your own. This is our city, and we should all be safe here. Before it's too late and before there's no one left to speak up for any of us.

~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop



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  • Hello, Wendy. I particularly like how you propose practical ways to think about addressing the problems here in Chicago.

    I'd like to ask your opinion on some ideas to fight crime over on my own page:

    Thank you for your time, and I agree that rather than leaving, the people of Chicago ought to dig in their heels and tell 'em we won't take it any more!

  • Here's the link:

  • In reply to C M Snyder:

    Thanks for your comment, C M. It's hard for me to say, since I'm no expert, but the most convincing approach to crime reduction I've heard about involves implementing social network analyses to identify and engage influencers in the community. The comment below comes from Syndio Social's Facebook page (they're a new-ish social network analysis consulting firm). Take a look at the article they wrote.

    "In Chicago’s 11th police district, more than 70% of the homicides in the past five years took place in a network of only 1,500 people."

    With this stunning statistic in mind, can SNA be used to eliminate crime? Check out Nika's thoughts in our weekly blog post:

  • I disagree with your Ceasefire proposal. I don't think giving gangbangers $1m is the answer. Use that money to hire more police.

    I'm all for "Stop and Frisk". (I'm hispanic). If it prevents crime then so be it. If you have nothing to hide, it's an inconvenience.

    As far as getting involved - the thugs don't care if you sign a petition. People need to take back their communities. Call the police. Give names.

    And maybe raise your children to have values - instead of defending them when they murder people (the three heartlest thugs that murdered Delfino Mora - their parents are DEFENDING them).

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    Didn't I see you over on my volleyball post as well, goofyjj? Seems like we have very different opinions about things.

    I'm posting yesterday's article about Mr. Mora so people know who and what you're talking about.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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