On Friday, the University of Chicago Crime Lab hosted a two-part symposium featuring Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy, CEO of Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard, and US Attorney for Northern Illinois Pat Fitzgerald, among others. The symposium, “Reducing Urban Crime and Violence: What Works and What is Promising,” was not open to the public, but was well-attended by local media, academics, and elected officials, as they packed the conference room of Perkins Coie.
The first panel, “Law Enforcement Strategies for Reducing Crime and Violence,” focused on a new book written by UC Berkeley Professor Frank Zimring entitled “The City That Became Safe.” A member of the panel, Professor Zimring gave credit for New York City’s dramatic decrease in crime over the past 20 years to “hot spot policing,” the destruction of public drug markets, increased manpower, the COMPSTAT management and mapping system, and gun programs. Supt. McCarthy’s one objection was in his defense of “stop and frisk” and “broken windows.” “Stop and frisk” was a controversial policing strategy whereby NYPD officers would stop, search, and question people suspected of carrying a firearm. The “broken windows” approach was to crack down on minor offenses like fare-evasion that were positively correlated with more serious crimes. Supt. McCarthy argued that these tactics allowed the New York City police to target individuals that they suspected of more serious crimes.
All in all, the panel was highly informative and seemed to be received well and with a genuine sense of hope by audience members. One man, before asking a question, even admitted that he was initially skeptical about “four white guys talking about the problems of urban communities,” but after hearing their discussion came away with the sense that they “get it.”
And then, everybody left…
As the symposium transitioned to the second panel, “Education and Social Service Strategies for Reducing Crime and Violence,” the room cleared out. After having to stand for the duration of the first panel, I found myself seated comfortably about where the camera for ABC7 had stood.
I didn’t get it.
The second panel was no less distinguished. It featured non-profit leaders and public officials, including J.C. Brizard, whose position as CEO of Chicago Public Schools has been at least as closely scrutinized as that of Supt. McCarthy. And yet, half of the attendees had left, including all of the local media and a prominent state senator who shall remain nameless.
The whole point of the symposium was that the issues of a failing school system and persistently high crime rates are inexorably linked. Supt. McCarthy’s discussion of the importance of social programs for re-engaging communities seemed a perfect segue into a dialogue of which social programs should be prioritized in times of fiscal tightening. I guess the folks who left were not convinced.
Roseanna Ander, the director of the Crime Lab, had even opened the symposium with a presentation on the connection between education and crime:
The high school graduation rate for African-American males in Chicago is just 39 percent, and in some of the city’s most distressed south- and west-side neighborhoods the graduation rate is much lower still. One consequence of this failure in our school system is pervasive involvement with the criminal justice system: Harvard sociologist Bruce Western and colleagues have shown that 70 percent of all black male high school dropouts will spend time in prison by their mid-30s (Western and Pettit, 2011). The homicide victimization rate for non-high school graduates is one-third higher than that of high school graduates and six times the rate of individuals with some college education.
They still don’t get it…