Chicago groups formulating strategy to combat violence this summer

In planning for a peaceful summer, violence prevention groups have joined together to try to keep Chicago safe.

"Everybody’s gearing up for the summer. We know if we don’t act, and act in collaboration – it’s gonna be a long, hot, violent summer. So we need to do our best to head that off," said Rev. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.

About 200 community leaders, social workers, academics and violence prevention experts gathered Wednesday in the gymnasium at the Garfield Park Gold Dome Field House to share information and game plan a strategy to cut down on crime this summer.

Researchers say violent crime is actually down in Chicago compared to 2016, and down the first quarter of this year. But there's concern after a series of high-profile attacks and shootings, and last week's social media triggered chaos in Millennium Park.

"I think everybody is concerned about what we're seeing in our city. I think all of us know our young people are in trouble, and need a lot of help. And so I think there's a sense of urgency that if we don't act now, we'll regret it later," said Rev. Hatch.


The goal is to keep Chicago kids engaged, and give them options for work and play that will keep them off the streets and away from gangs.

Millions of dollars have been committed to anti-violence efforts this summer from both public and private entities, including $250 million from the state of Illinois over the next three years.

"None of us can do this by ourselves. Only way we do this is by collaboration, by scaling, by learning together," said Arne Duncan, founder of Chicago CRED — a nonprofit aimed at reducing gun violence.

While crime is dominating the headlines, an expert in crime statistics told the gathering that in many neighborhoods, violence is actually decreasing.

"We’re seeing Roseland, West Pullman, North Lawndale, West Garfield Park, Austin — really a lot of the neighborhoods associated with violence in Chicago are seeing a lot of reductions," said Jack Jomarron of Chicago CRED.

As for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to ban unaccompanied minors from Millennium Park on weekend evenings and move the city’s curfew up an hour, Duncan called it window dressing.

"I think it’s pretty superficial. Pretty ineffective and not evidence-based," he said. "There’s no evidence that having a curfew makes a difference. This (gathering) is the work that makes a difference."