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Chicagoans Crowding Out Violence at Block Level

Chicagoans like Natalie Perkins spent last summer building community cohesion and promoting safety and peace on Chicago's South Side. As education coordinator for South Merrill Community Garden, she helped run an entire summer of Saturday activities for neighborhood kids called Planting and Playing Summer Garden Arts. The effort was one of 120 projects funded by the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, which offers rapid-response grant opportunities to support community-based actions and activities that make neighborhoods safer.

Curbed Chicago's Patrick Sisson reports how community gardens and block associations are helping stem Chicago's gun violence.

Community gardens, and other neighborhood-level organizations like block clubs and arts groups, aren't typically viewed as direct solutions to violence. Decades of "broken window" policing persuaded many cities to adopt top-down crime-prevention plans focused on punishing small offenses (recent research, however, indicates that this strategy had the opposite effect).

Instead, a growing body of evidence suggests that community groups have actually played an outsized, and under-recognized, role in the significant decline in urban crime across the United States and that programs that benefit local, bottom-up urban organizing may be the solution.

According to a recent study by New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey, these groups were "fundamental" to the massive nationwide drops in crime over the last 25 years (the national homicide rate, for example, shrunk by 50 percent between 1990 and 2015). His work even determined a formula for their impact: Every 10 additional organizations in a city with more than 100,000 residents creates a 6 percent drop in violent crime, and a 9 percent drop in homicides.

In line with the growing consensus, the [Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities'] work is swift and strategic; it's community action at the street level. Over the last two years, a coalition of 30 charities and foundations pledged more than $1 million to underwrite small, community-oriented grants between $1,000 and $10,000, part of a $30 million investment in strategies to reduce gun violence.

The grants will support temporary programming and events to increase neighborhood unity and safety in under-resourced Chicago neighborhoods, like Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Austin, located on the city's majority-black South and West sides. The funds also empower local actors already working in their communities, doing away with long vetting processes required by some nonprofits and one-size-fits-all solutions.

Read the full article.

This is a story about the Community Safety and Peace and Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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CPD Reforms Underway

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is adding management-level positions to oversee reform and strategy. The newly-created positions will be charged with implementing a strategic plan for the police department and making sure reforms are delivered by specific deadlines, according to the Sun-Times. CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson acknowledged the civilian jobs are a break from the past for the police department.

"For a long time, CPD and law enforcement probably all over the country, never really embraced civilian experts in terms of doing things of this nature. What we're good at is fighting crime and locking up bad guys. What we're not good at is long-term strategies in terms of the direction that the organization may go," the superintendent said.

"We made a commitment to change the way CPD does business and to put these reforms into place. We weren't just saying we were going to do it. We're actually going to do it. So this is just another mechanism for us to ensure that we're basically policing ourselves. I need the sworn personnel to focus on the crime fight. For so long, what law enforcement would do is pick a police officer and say, 'You're in charge of this' with little or no expertise."

In related news, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan launched a website allowing the public to have a say in CPD reform. Madigan's office says the public input will help inform the court-ordered oversight of CPD, also known as a consent decree, according to the Associated Press.

These stories are about the Police Reform and Community Relations strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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The Metropolitan Peace Academy: Professionalizing Street Outreach in Chicago

By Vaughn Bryant

In Chicago, 764 people were murdered in 2016, a 58 percent increase over 2015. That number would have been even greater without the invaluable work of street outreach workers. In cities such as Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, street outreach workers have been indispensable in diffusing violent situations, helping to prevent such situations from escalating, and also quelling demands for retaliation.

Their skill set is a special one. Seasoned workers are consummate mediators, able to build trusted personal and group relationships with perpetrators and victims of violence, as well as their family members, friends and the broader community. Simultaneously they must cultivate the trust of law enforcement, respecting their authority and not overstepping bounds.

Street outreach work has not always been valued. Misunderstandings about its role and how it should function have sometimes caused friction with police and worked against the full effectiveness of outreach. To help improve that dynamic, Chicago's Communities Partnering 4 Peace initiative has launched the Metropolitan Peace Academy.

Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), convened by Metropolitan Family Services, is a framework that provides a comprehensive, long-term approach to reducing violence and gang activity among the individuals and communities it serves. Its work is rooted in nonviolence, trauma-informed care, hyper-local collaboration and restorative justice practices.

CP4P has gathered eight of Chicago's most respected community-based organizations working in street outreach to work in nine of the city's most at-risk communities in order to 1) help reduce shootings and homicides, 2) create and reclaim safe community spaces, and 3) professionalize the field of community outreach.

As the focus of goal #3 Metropolitan Family Services is collaborating with its CP4P and other experts to develop and implement the Metropolitan Peace Academy (MPA). The goal of MPA is to professionalize and strengthen the fields of street outreach and community violence prevention. This will be accomplished by:

  • Establishing core competencies, knowledge and skills required of outreach workers and violence prevention practitioners;
  • Ensuring consistent standards in how outreach workers deliver services;
  • Offering ongoing professional development of outreach workers to promote best practices; and
  • Establishing a citywide network of outreach workers to ensure the highest probability of success in creating safer communities.

MPA will welcome its first cohort of 25 professionals on January 30, 2018.

The pilot curriculum, featuring 144 hours of study resulting in certification, will be launched in partnership with Northeastern University, and will include the topics below:


  • Professionalism has a unique meaning and purpose in the field of street outreach. MPA will address the characteristics of professionalism, how to demonstrate it on the street and in the office.

Role Clarity

  • Street Outreach is important work that requires strengthening vulnerable communities. Role clarity is important for outreach workers to understand the scope of their work, boundaries with their clients, collaboration with case managers and professional understanding with law enforcement.


  • Self-care creates a space for participants to explore their own trauma and establish their own routines for coping with past and present trauma.


  • Communications will address techniques such as motivational interviewing, active listening, public speaking, managing media and precise messaging. It will also address protocols for communicating with families, community members and law enforcement.

Gathering Information

  • Gathering information addresses issues of confidentiality, conflict resolution and crisis response.

Crisis Protocols

  • Crisis protocols addresses how to operate in situations such as crime scenes, how to manage rumor control, and how to work with other organizations effectively.

Daily Operational Protocols

  • Daily operational protocols addresses time management, accountability practices with supervisors, as well as routine operations like scheduling meetings, school dismissal time procedures etc.

Interactions with Law Enforcement

  • Interaction with law enforcement addresses boundaries with outreach workers, coordinating responsibilities and legal liability issues.

Client Advocacy

  • Client advocacy addresses the various types of clients street outreach workers may serve and how to advocate for them effectively.

A Day in the Life of an Outreach Worker

  • A day in the life of an outreach worker addresses how to structure their workday, how to recruit clients, strategically canvassing the community and practical application of the knowledge gained in the training.


  • MPA will work with a team of experienced street outreach professionals to design and deliver its curriculum. All professionals who facilitate classes will receive additional compensation for prep time and delivery.

To measure the Academy's impact, several measures will be implemented. They include tracking the number of staff and amount of training provided, as well as conducting skills transfer and training satisfaction surveys with trainees to assess the training's effectiveness and help identify improvements. In addition, a training observation tool will focus on fidelity to training content for coaching and training improvement over time. Lastly, trainers also will receive support to enhance methods for delivering content for maximum impact of staff knowledge and skills in practice.

MPA's short-term goals include finalizing its design and establishing infrastructure to operationalize by April 2018, offering one to two classes yearly that collectively will graduate up to 100 students yearly; and adding classes in non-violence, trauma-informed care, restorative justice practices and interaction with law enforcement.

Longer-term goals include offering courses to a wider variety of community organizations, expanding the curriculum to include youth programs, and providing non-violence training to professionals seeking continued development and City College students.

Ultimately, by helping to professionalize street outreach, the Metropolitan Peace Academy hopes to strengthen the impact of this much-needed work, and in the process help further safer communities throughout Chicago. 

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How Art Built Bridges Between Police and Community

By Cassaundra Sampson, a writer with Rudd Resources

This is an excerpt of a post from The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities blog.

For 45 years, the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center has provided Afro-Latin arts and culture to a neighborhood surrounded by gang activity and crime. In 2017, Executive Director Omar Torres applied for a grant from the Fund for Safe & Peaceful Communities to extend the stay of artists in residence through the MacArthur International Connections program, Y No Había Luz, a leading masks and theater group from Puerto Rico.

"We got amazing news late that May that we were getting this grant, so we extended the stay of these professional artists to a point that they could present at the Puerto Rican parade," says Torres.

In addition to a summer filled with puppet-making workshops for the community hosted by Y No Había Luz, the extension also fostered a partnership with the 25th district of the Chicago Police Department. The collaboration included a series of meetings between the center and the district's community relations staff. Officers even participated in the puppet-making workshops.

"This gave me an opportunity to meet the police and have them get involved.They really didn't know what we were doing so that was really awesome, and they're always looking for activities for the youth and they were unaware of how much we were doing," says Omar Torres, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center.

Read the full post.

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities. 

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Mentor Teacher Brother

By Raquel Venado, a writer with Rudd Resources

This is an excerpt of a post from The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities blog.

Mentor Teacher Brother is an organization with a clear motto: Leaders of Today Working to Preserve a Better Tomorrow. Located in the West Pullman neighborhood, its goal is to create defining moments for at-risk high school students and help them find their way to college.

Thanks to funds they received from The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, the organization was able to extend its services through the summer months with its "Summer Enrichment Camp." The 12-week camp was filled with group activities and field trips for 25 young men.

Mentor Teacher Brother Executive Director LaMont Taylor says that one of the most exciting activities was the "Black and Blue Conversation." In this event, the students met Chicago Police Department District 5 officers for an open dialogue. Taylor says the event allowed both parties to see things from the other's perspective and find things in common.

"They understood that at the end of the day, everybody just wants to go home and be safe," Taylor says, adding that the conversation allowed kids and the organization to create a relationship with the police officers. "It´s an opportunity to see that they can affect change by being part of the solution."

Read the full post.

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.

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Apprenticeship Program Engaged Teens to Repair and Give Away Hundreds of Bikes this Summer

This is an excerpt of a post from The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities blog.

The big warehouse at 24th and Western could easily go unnoticed in the Pilsen neighborhood; there is no dominant signage, no colorful mural and no sweeping awning on the former furniture warehouse. Instead, like a great book with a mediocre cover, the good stuff is within this building's plain façade: thousands of bicycles and parts, and hundreds of helmets and locks, handled by scores of mechanics and volunteers. This is Working Bikes, a Chicago nonprofit organization that "rescues" and refurbishes old and unwanted bicycles, and gives them new life as vehicles for transportation, enjoyment and economic sustainability for people across Chicago and the world.

Paul Fitzgerald is the operations manager for Working Bikes, and it's his job, among many duties, to look for funding to support the expansion of programs. Fitzgerald applied for a grant from the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities to launch a summer apprentice program for Chicago teens. "I'm a lifelong Chicagoan and south sider who feels strongly that our global mission is important but we (also) need to be service oriented and engage with young people as best we can," he said.

Working Bikes received a grant from the Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, and Fitzgerald was able to hire eight young adults from the Little Village, North Lawndale, South Shore, Roseland and Brighton Park communities. Each apprentice each worked 24 hours a week repairing bikes and distributing them at community events; funding allowed four apprentices to extend their work with additional hours, said Fitzgerald, and "a few are still coming back as volunteers" this fall.

Read the full post.

This is a story about the Promote Community Safety and Peace strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities 

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Everyone who cares deeply about Chicago’s future can play a role.

If you are an employer, you can hire young people at risk. If you are a community leader, you can help improve police-community relations. If you are a health care provider, you can support trauma-informed care to gun violence victims. If you are a funder, you can support any one of these efforts. Whatever you do, your voice matters when you speak up in support of policies that can make our neighborhoods safer. Reach out to learn more.

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