Chicago's gun violence crisis requires all of us to make community safety a priority. Last year, following a decade of progress in reducing violence, Chicago suffered 4,368 shootings and 764 homicides, a level of violence unheard of since the 1990s. The trend continues in 2017. It must stop, and all of us have a role to play.
There is so much to do, but it is heartening that so many are stepping up to meet the challenge. Families, community and religious leaders, church groups, local organizations and others are working to make blocks and neighborhoods safer throughout the city. Organizations are reaching out to individuals at risk of violence with jobs and services. Reforms are underway at the Police Department. Adding to these urgent responses is the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of more than 30 Chicago funders and foundations committed to aligning their funding to support proven and promising approaches to reducing violence.
Starting in 2016, informed by longstanding work by many organizations—large and small—to address root causes of gun violence, several foundations supported the operations of the Police Accountability Task Force and made direct investments in more than 120 neighborhood organizations in communities most affected by violence. As the Partnership has grown, members have invested in additional strategies.
Our hope is that by coming together to support work across Chicago, especially in communities at greatest risk, we will help strengthen programs and lay the foundation for a meaningful reduction in gun violence over the next two to three years. Members of the Partnership are working together to coordinate their individual investments in four key strategies:
- Intervening with likely victims and perpetrators through street outreach, constructive policing interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy and jobs.
- Increasing legitimacy for and effectiveness of the Chicago Police Department through improved training, better police-community relations, greater community voice in the design and operations of police accountability structures, and other reforms.
- Strengthening gun laws to reduce the availability of illegal firearms.
- Supporting 120 grassroots community-based organizations for events and projects in 2017 across 17 Chicago community areas to foster stronger community bonds, crowd out violence and promote constructive engagement with law enforcement.
To date, members have committed more than $30 million to support and coordinate work on these strategies. Along with commitments from many other groups, and ongoing investments from city, county, state and federal government agencies, the greater Chicago community is responding to the crisis of gun violence, and we can all help. Still, the magnitude and urgency of the challenge demand much more.
We know you are someone who cares deeply about Chicago's future. 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.