Chicago CRED proceeds from the belief that the individuals most at risk are not the problem—they are the solution.
The City of Chicago is the undisputed gun violence capital of America. Last year, the city saw nearly as many shootings and killings as New York and Los Angeles combined, despite having barely a fifth of their combined population. While several other cities have higher per-capita murder rates, the sheer number of shootings in Chicago—more than 4,400 in 2021, including 800 homicides—places my hometown at the epicenter of America’s gun violence epidemic.
Yet, I am hopeful.
For the last six years, through the organization I founded, Chicago CRED, I have been working with men and women at extreme high risk of shooting or being shot. Many have been in and out of the criminal justice system; many have been shot; most have lost loved ones. All of them have witnessed levels of violence that would traumatize the most seasoned soldiers. And like soldiers in battle, they are just trying to survive—to feed and house themselves and their families and to stay safe in their communities.
Their upbringings were often marred by any number of adverse experiences: substance abuse, domestic abuse, homelessness, mental health struggles, joblessness, educational failure, or hunger. Most were driven to the streets by the same human desires we all have—camaraderie, validation, security, and love. They are the most extraordinary people I have ever known. Their resilience and commitment to transforming their lives and their communities in the face of overwhelming obstacles inspires me every single day.
Founded in 2016, Chicago CRED (short for Create Real Economic Destiny) proceeds from the belief that the surest way to stop gun violence is engaging directly with those most at risk of shooting or being shot and giving them a reason to put down their guns. Said another way, we believe that the individuals we work with are not the problem—they are the solution. They are the only ones with the experience, relationships, and courage necessary to do the difficult, dangerous work of reaching out to friends, neighbors, and family members and getting them to also stop shooting.
Our comprehensive approach includes street outreach, counseling, life coaching, education, and employment. Participants in our program have five separate adults connected to their lives, reachable at all hours, and available to help them cope with everyday challenges. If they have to go to court, we go with them. If they are homeless, we find them housing. If they have been targeted for retaliation, we sometimes take them out of town for a while. And if they are simply emotionally collapsing, we give them love and support.
To read more about CRED's Place-Based and People-Based Strategies as well as the limitless potential of our participants, click here.
Donnell Gardner, a street outreach worker with Chicago CRED, talked with reporter Emily Nonko about his work, as well as his participation in the Violence Intervention Worker Study. David Hureau, assistant professor of sociology at University of Albany and co-author Andrew Papachristos, professor of sociology at Northwestern University partnered with Chicago CRED and Institute for Nonviolence Chicago to survey the needs of outreach workers in violence intervention programs. To read more about what is needed to support the men and women doing this valuable work, click here.
Participants and staff from Youth Peace Center (YPC), in the Roseland community in Chicago, accompanied Arne Duncan to Washington, D.C. where they spoke about the need for a national solution to gun violence. They were there as a part of the 24-7 People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety where more than 72 speakers spoke about the need for Congress to act. Listen to Arne Duncan and Leslie Welch, Program Supervisor at YPC. They hope that their voices will stop the talking, thinking, and praying and lead to actual action on the part of Congress.
Men from Chicago CRED recently participated in the ConTextos Chicago Project, an intensive writing program that incorporates peaceful conflict resolution with the power of personal memoir writing. The authors learned to “read as writers” as they authored powerful memoirs, engaged in constant conversation with their peers to learn how to disagree peacefully and give positive feedback, and finally publish their work in the form of beautifully illustrated books. These stories will be used to create conversations that build empathy with families, teachers, the community and others.
The CRED men have written a rich array of stories that are as varied as they are, each illuminating a personal journey marked by perseverance, hope, and a determination for many new chapters ahead.
A landmark study, Violence Intervention Worker Study (VIeWS), was conducted by Northwestern University and the University at Albany, SUNY. It is the first study of Chicago’s street outreach workforce and provides insights into the lives of men and women who are at the center of violence prevention work. In contrast to other first responders, street outreach workers not only to respond to acute violence, and help to the affected individuals and families in its aftermath, but also manage the threat of retaliation and additional violence. The working paper is available on the website of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. To read more about the study, click here.
Photo by Stephen Lewis
Each year, the Crown Family School Alumni Association recognizes distinguished alumni during Alumni Weekend. Chicago CRED received the Distinctive Innovation in Social Services Award from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy & Practice at the May 20 ceremony. The award recognizes social service agencies and programs that have demonstrated innovation in their approaches and practices. Arne Duncan, Paul Robinson, Billy Moore and CRED participants were there to accept the honor. CRED and its partners are working together to make our communities and our city safer.
Over a dozen anti-violence organizations came together at the Garfield Park field house last week to talk about how their coalition is working to change the seasonal surge violence in Chicago this summer. The audience heard from each of the groups that have a “boots-on-the-ground” approach to violence interruption in their communities, as well as several individuals whose lives had been changed through their participation in programs focused on cognitive behavioral therapy, life coaching and job training. Arne Duncan acknowledged the people who are trying to change bring anti-violence efforts to scale and that he was thankful for the collective effort! To read more click on here, here, or here.
Partners Highlight Outreach Strategies, Collaboration, Research, and Funding
Chicago’s growing community of violence prevention organizations gathered in Garfield Park, 100 North Central Park Avenue, today to update each other and the public on a range of topics including summertime outreach activities, neighborhood collaborations, the latest research and public and private funding.
The event opened with a welcome from Marshall Hatch, Sr. of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park and Marshall Hatch, Jr., who runs MAAFA Redemption Project.
Reverend Hatch said, “I am continually amazed by the potential and genius we discover and uncover in our work with young men in West Garfield Park. We have found that the young people in our community are not the problem, but they hold the keys to solving many of the problems we face.”
Marshall Hatch Jr. said, “We are here because of our unyielding commitment to our young people. We will continue investing in them because, in many ways, they’re our last hope. Gun violence is the moral issue of our time. Who better to lead us to better days than those who have been impacted by it the most?”
Several participants in violence prevention programs also spoke about the work, sharing their stories and affirming the critical need to broaden the network of violence programs to reduce gun violence.
Rashaniece White of Roseland is a life coach with Chicago CRED after completing the program as a participant. She said, “Being a part of Chicago CRED has changed my life tremendously. Coming into the program I was facing a lot of insecurities in my life. Chicago CRED helped to nurture my mind, build my confidence and guide me towards greatness.”
Aaron Taylor of West Pullman served time for a gun charge before enrolling with Chicago CRED in 2019. Now trained as a welder, he said, “Where I’m from, opportunity is rare. When real opportunity is offered, I never run from it.”
The gathering included an update on gun violence year-to-date showing total shootings citywide down 15%. Some of the largest declines in shootings are in neighborhoods where violence prevention organizations are most active, including North Lawndale, Roseland, West Pullman, Englewood, Austin and West Garfield Park.
The event included remarks from representatives of violence prevention organizations, including READI Chicago, Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) and Chicago CRED. Collectively these three organizations have served thousands of people with direct outreach, life coaching, counseling, education and employment.
Vaughn Bryant, CP4P Executive Director said, “We are thankful for the sustained support we have received from the city, county, state and philanthropic community. It allows us to support 14 organizations providing hyperlocal, trauma-informed services in 26 vulnerable neighborhoods across Chicago. We also look forward to increasing the capacity of our Metropolitan Peace Academy, which has trained hundreds of outreach, case manager and victim advocate professionals.”
On behalf of CP4P, Yolanda Fields, Executive Director of Breakthrough, one of the CP4P organizations spoke at the event along with Damien Morris, Breakthrough’s Senior Director of Violence Prevention Services. Breakthrough serves the East Garfield Park community.
Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab shared research on the READI Program showing that READI works with the men most at risk for gun violence , and that participants experienced 63% fewer arrests for shootings and homicides compared with others with a similar backgrounds who were not served by READI.
Jorge Matos, Senior Director of READI Chicago said, “The individuals we’re engaging have been victimized and marginalized and are living in a cycle of trauma and violence. READI’s cognitive behavioral interventions are key to supporting our guys as they change their patterns of thinking and continue to work with us to set themselves on a better, stronger path forward.”
Frank Perez, Director of Violence Intervention and Prevention Services at UCAN, also offered an update on the North Lawndale Collaboration, a unique partnership underway comprising READI, CRED and CP4P, UCAN and the North Lawndale Employment Network. The Collaboration’s goal is to serve at least 50 percent of the estimated 1250 young people at risk—in just that one neighborhood.
By serving a critical mass of individuals, the NL Collaborative hopes to reach a tipping point that breaks the cycle of retaliatory shootings driving much of Chicago’s gun violence. The larger goal is to demonstrate that violence prevention at scale can both transform individual lives and transform whole communities.
Perez said, “It is vitally important to hire and support ‘credible messengers’ with authentic relationships in the community and with the people we are looking to reach. If we can scale up that proven-to-work model, success is within our reach as a collaborative in terms of having a lasting impact on violence in North Lawndale and across the entire city.”
Northwestern University’s Northwestern Neighborhood and Network Initiative (N3) has also released several research briefs on CP4P that show that the program reduces gun violence in the communities it serves and reduces victimization among participants.
An N3 study for Chicago CRED shows that the number of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries across CRED participants in the Roseland neighborhood decreased by 50% and arrests for violent crimes decreased 48% in the 18 months after joining the program.
Soledad McGrath, Executive Director of N3, also shared new research on the Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace (FLIP) program, which puts participants at hot spots during summer evenings to discourage shootings. The new research shows that, when FLIP workers are present at hot spots, shootings virtually drop to zero. The report also mentions that FLIP workers were responsible for over 600 interventions last summer and negotiated 47 non-aggression agreements among opposing street factions.
Now in its fifth year, FLIP kicks off on May 25th with approximately 400 peacekeepers covering 86 locations in 12 Chicago neighborhoods: Austin, East and West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Little Village, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, Englewood, Grand Crossing, Roseland and West Pullman.
Chris Patterson, who heads up the Office of Violence Prevention in the Illinois Department of Public Health highlighted public funding commitments for violence totaling $118M in 2022, including both state, and local funding.
“Governor JB Pritzker recognized and understood the critical need to address violence prevention. His unwavering commitment has brought a serious commitment of financial resources into these unprecedented efforts to stop the violence in our communities—approaches like advancing summer jobs, investing in behavioral health and youth development programs. We are working to advance programs that prevent violence and keep people safe. We are honored to be partnering with so many dedicated organizations that will make a difference for so many individuals,” Patterson said.
Tawa Mitchell of the MacArthur Foundation co-chairs the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a coalition of 50 private donors and foundations who have been funding violence prevention programs since 2016. They recently announced 201 community grants to support grassroots organizations across the city leading summertime and early fall anti-violence initiatives and activities.
“These grants will help hyperlocal organizations bring together communities in positive ways and restore a sense of safety and hope,” said Mitchell. “This is so important to Chicago’s future. We have been funding violence prevention efforts and it’s clearer and clearer that these programs are making a difference.”
CRED Founder Arne Duncan closed the event by saluting city and state officials and community leaders across the city who are working more closely together than ever before.
“We have built something really special in Chicago–a violence prevention network serving dozens of neighborhoods across the city. The architecture is in place. Now, we need to take this to scale,” Duncan said.
For More Information:
* BRIDGET HATCH, METROPOLITAN FAMILY SERVICES (CP4P)
(312) 579-6541 * firstname.lastname@example.org
* BARBARA HOFFMAN, HEARTLAND ALLIANCE (READI)
708-574-8222 * email@example.com
* PETER CUNNINGHAM, CHICAGO CRED
312-636-8619 * firstname.lastname@example.org
An editorial, written by Rev. Michael Pleger, Rev. Otis Moss III, Rabbi Seth Limmer, Rev. Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, and Arne Duncan, offered an alternative response to the death of Seandell Holliday in Millennium Park. Rather than imposing new restrictions on youth with a citywide 10 pm curfew and a 6 pm Millennium Park curfew unless accompanied by a responsible adult, these religious and community leaders suggest that we need have more alternative activities for these young people including summer jobs. The City needs to create a public education campaign aimed at helping parents keep their kids safe and, most importantly, have both outreach workers downtown to engage with youth and police that are specifically trained to deal with young people. To read the full editorial, click here.
The spring Chicago CRED Basketball League held the first of seven-game series scheduled at five locations around Chicago and Markham on Saturday, April 23. The teams from 2501 and Roseland site played in this initial game with the Roseland team securing the win (the final score was 15 to 12). CREDMADE won their first game, beating the team from CREDWorks. These games were an awesome experience for both the players and everyone who came out to cheer them on. Games will continue Saturdays through July.
The costs associated with violence and crime in Chicago is in the billions of dollars, in lost lives and victim hospitalizations, lost revenues as families and businesses relocate, and in the budgets for policing, court systems and incarceration. The costs of adequately funding anti-violence interventions are also in the billions but could provide long-term, sustainable solutions to stem and slowly reverse the rising increase in violent crime.
Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago CRED, one of a number of anti-violence programs, stated that this year is critical as the city cannot have a third straight year of rising violence. Preliminary research suggests that one of the most effective strategies involves community-based programs and investments including direct outreach to high-risk individuals. To read more about how investments in violence prevention could change the trajectory in Chicago, click here.
Article by Andy Grimes/Sun-Times Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
A new study by University of Chicago Crime Lab of the Chicago-based anti-violence program READI has provided some of the best evidence that violence can be reduced for individuals at the highest risk of being a victim of violence or of victimizing others without arresting them or throwing them in jail. Participants for this study were recruited by outreach workers or from a list of high-risk Chicagoans in most at-risk communities including Austin, Englewood, North Lawndale, West Englewood, and West Garfield Park.
The trial followed 2,500 men in these violent neighborhoods. It found that the men who participated in an intensive, 18-month program called READI Chicago were nearly two-thirds less likely to be arrested for a shooting or homicide and nearly 20% less likely to be shot or killed themselves when compared to a similar group who were not in the program. The key components of READI’s program include cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as job and educational training, all of which is supported by the staff’s relentless engagement. To learn more about this research, click here to read the full article.
Article by Andy Grimes/ Sun-Times Photo by Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Larice Nelson is a victim advocate for the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago in the Austin community. Based on the arc of his life, he was that at the highest risk of being a victim of gun violence and he was shot twice in 2017. But an interaction with a street outreach worker from the Institute for Nonviolence changed his trajectory. He spent a year in the Institute’s program that included therapy, mentoring and training and was hired after he completed the program. In his new role, he works directly with the victims of gun violence and their families. He became a victim himself but, rather than returning to his earlier response of retaliation, he recovered from his wounds and returned to the community as an advocate. To read more about Larice Nelson's journey, click here.
Article Andy Grimes / Sun-Times Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Basketball leagues are not an official component of CRED’s anti-violence efforts. A league was formed in a matter of days in early September, as CRED staff was at a loss to squash a violent feud between gang factions on the South Side.
The games have given CRED’s outreach team a few hours with young men they otherwise might be lucky to spend just a few minutes with on the street.
Based on CRED’s analysis of recent shootings and arrests, along with information outreach workers recruit from the streets, any of the 16 players who showed up for the game rank as roughly 25 times more likely to be shot than an average Chicagoan. Most are not aware of the exact figures that go into CRED’s formula, but they are acutely attuned to the unique risks they face in trying to find a basketball game.
CLICK HERE to read the full article in The Sun Times.
Gun violence is an epidemic, and we can’t rely on the police alone to solve it. As with COVID-19, we need a “vaccine” that stops the virus before it strikes. That vaccine is in development all across Chicago where organizations such as READI Chicago, Communities Partnering 4 Peace, Acclivus, Chicago CRED, and dozens of other community partners are working directly with the young men most at risk, providing counseling, treatment, educational support, job training, and placement.
The full Chicago Tribune article can be found here.
Violence prevention organizations such as Chicago CRED, READI Chicago, Communities Partnering 4 Peace, Youth Peace Center in Roseland, UCAN in North Lawndale, Maafa on the West Side, Iman on the South Side, New Life Centers in Little Village and several others across the city begin by recognizing that street violence is tied to social failure and trauma.
Under CRED’s model, they get a stipend while they transition, counseling and life coaches to keep them on track, as well as role models and support they never had growing up. Our workers also negotiate peace treaties, intervene in online disputes, occupy “hot spots” to discourage violence and help young people at risk earn degrees and get jobs.
It’s slow, expensive, and risky work and it’s not foolproof, but research from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago shows promise. We estimate that taking these programs to scale would cost $400 million to $500 million per year.
CLICK HERE to read the full op-ed by Arne Duncan.
A new research brief from Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative (N3) was just published affirming that Chicago CRED:
- works with the highest-risk individuals.
- successfully connects them with needed services.
- "potentially" reduces their likelihood of being shot or arrested by 50% and 48% respectively. As always, they are cautious about suggesting direct causation, but it is nevertheless encouraging.
The report explicitly mentions that "other outreach-focused programs such as Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) and READI Chicago find similar results."
The report also says, "for every one CRED participant, we found more than 20 other individuals with similar risk profiles who were not receiving similar services," so the case for going to scale is real.
CRED and their partners celebrated the 46 men and women who received their high school diplomas on Thursday, August 19 at the South Shore Cultural Center. While most high school graduations occur in May or June, this ceremony was for participants from Chicago CRED, Youth Peace Center, and MAAFA. These programs are part of efforts by these and other organizations, across the city, designed to reduce gun violence by providing outreach, coaching, clinical services, education, and job training opportunities for individuals at the highest risk of involvement with gun violence.
To hear more about the important impact that these programs have on the lives of these graduates, click here.
FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace), is a four-year-old effort to create a safe presence at hot spots during summertime afternoon to late-night hours, mid-week through the weekend. According to Chicago CRED, when FLIP workers are present at hot spots, shootings incidents drop almost to zero.
Starting mid-May, eight street outreach partners (New Life, UCAN, Breakthrough, INVC, ALSO, Target, Acclivus, and CRED) placed over 300 FLIP peacekeepers in 77 hot spots to maintain safety, interrupt violence, and negotiate peace in conflict zones. The hot spots, identified through crime data and outreach workers, are in twelve neighborhoods: Austin, East and West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale and Little Village on the West Side and Back of the Yards, Englewood, West Englewood, Grand Crossing, Roseland and West Pullman on the South Side.
During Memorial Day weekend, only one of the 77 FLIP sites experienced a shooting, and the 12 FLIP communities accounted for less than a third of the overall gun violence citywide, even though they are the highest-crime neighborhoods. Since the program launched, more than 90% of hot spots have experienced zero shootings.
In its newly adopted 2021-22 budget, the State of Illinois has committed a record $100 million to violence prevention statewide. Roughly 60 percent of the money will be dedicated to high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago.
At an event in North Lawndale last week, CRED Founder Arne Duncan saluted the Governor and key legislative sponsors, Representative Justin Slaughter and Senator Robert Peters, for securing the money, saying, “This is the largest state investment in violence prevention in history and we are very grateful to the Governor and the legislature. There are still unmet needs, but this is a big step forward, and we know they want to do more.”
All told, public and private sources are providing approximately $93 million this year to fund violence prevention and related programs in high-crime neighborhoods in the city. That includes roughly $38M in private funds, $36M from the City, $5M from the County, and $13M from the State.
North Lawndale Peace Rally Press Coverage:
Illinois has a gun violence epidemic of concentrated gun violence in discreet neighborhoods across the State. Just as Covid-19 requires a public health solution, Illinois’ gun violence epidemic demands broader public health supports to stop the bullets, redirect young people toward better options than the streets, and provide trauma recovery from violence within Illinois’ Medicaid program.
The Reimagine Public Safety Act has four components:
1. Fund $24 million of outreach services in Chicago’s 17 highest risk neighborhoods.
Outreach services help young adults most impacted by violence leave the streets. Credible messengers in community-based organizations have relationships that allow them to know who needs the help most and how to work with them toward change. Outreach services available in Chicago have already demonstrated promising results and additional funding will allow more than 1400 acutely at-risk individuals to receive services in Chicago’s highest risk communities.
2. Fund $35 million in youth development programming in Chicago’s 17 Highest Risk Neighborhoods
Youth development services targeted to pre-teens and teens that live on high violence blocks in high violence communities can enable Illinois to create an early warning and prevention system that deflects our young people from the criminal justice system and violence victimization. This funding will support 8000 additional youth development after-school and summer programs for pre-teen and teens as well as a more intensive six-month program for 2000 teens that has proven to reduce criminal justice involvement and school attendance.
3. Fund $40 million in violence prevention programming in 10 cities outside Chicago
Cities outside Chicago have comparable gun violence problems and need a public health solution to this concentrated trauma. These local areas may decide to develop a community-based system similar to the Chicago model or they may need to diversify into other micro-targeted services. The Act enables each of these 10 cities and geographic areas to implement comprehensive, integrated violence prevention programs with these funds.
4. Create Integrated Behavioral Health Violence Recovery Services Under Medicaid
The Biden Administration is requesting states to develop innovative systems that recognize the unique needs of the health care service delivery system to address trauma recovery and wellness for individuals that are chronically exposed to the risk of violence and concentrated violence itself. Illinois will become a national leader under the Reimagine Safety Act by combining the credible messenger work in outreach with life stabilization efforts under case management and culturally competent group and individual therapeutic services.
Each of the four components has built-in structural guarantees to make sure community residents and community organizations from the impacted neighborhoods lead the healing process under this Act.
These provisions include:
- Requirements to fund multiple agencies in each neighborhood
- Requirements for minimum grants under each section to make sure resources follow expertise
- Community-based organizations select their technical assistance and training
- GATA is temporarily waived for small organizations that receive technical assistance to comply.
SUPPORT THE 2021 REIMAGINE PUBLIC SAFETY ACT
Conflict happens. And in the right conditions, it's also perfectly healthy. But conflict can also be destructive and intractable.
How do we distinguish these types of conflict? And what can we do when we're stuck in the unhealthy kind?
Click here to watch an interview with Chicago CRED's Curtis Toler and Arne Duncan, and journalist Amanda Ripley. They discuss how people shift from destructive "high conflict" to regular conflict, which Ripley believes is "inevitable, essential, and healthy."
Two Expert Panels w/ Special Guests: Representative Robin Kelly (IL-02), Senator Dick Durbin (IL), Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT):
1) First panel features lived experiences of Chicago field practitioners
2) Second panel features national experts on intervening to prevent gun violence
1) Explain how public health systems stop gun violence
2) Spotlight how federal policy can help build public health systems
With gun violence at a 20-year high in Chicago, a new report by the Northwestern Network & Neighborhood Initiative (N3) examines how Chicago CRED's outreach program identifies and engages individuals at the highest risk for gun violence in some of Chicago's most violence-ridden neighborhoods.
The report also details the experiences of participants in the program, highlighting how they perceive the violence that surrounds them, as well as why they joined and choose to stay in CRED. CLICK HERE to read the full report.
In light of the COVID-19 social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, we have been blessed with the opportunity to engage our participants in real and interactive virtual conversations with celebrities, experts, influencers, industry leaders, and more. As such, we are producing a series of interesting, informative, entertaining, and engaging virtual interactive interviews called “CREDTALKS."
VIOLENCE PREVENTION GROUPS RECOMMIT TO LONG-TERM GOALS WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING BIG SETBACKS IN 2020
Organizations working to prevent gun violence remain committed to getting Chicago back on track after a devastating year that has taken the lives of nearly 800 people and wounded thousands of others. In a zoom press conference, representatives of Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), READI Chicago and Chicago CRED said, “2020 must be an aberration, not a trend.”
Depending on the final number of gun-related deaths and injuries, 2020 will either be the worst year since the 1990’s or the second worst. Either way, said Vaughn Bryant, Executive Director CP4P & Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, “It’s a reflection of our deeply troubled times—from COVID to economics.”
“Gun violence is a public health crisis, and it won’t be solved until we treat it like a public health crisis,” Bryant said. His organization has research from the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network Initiative (N3) at Northwestern University showing a positive impact on the communities they serve.
Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of READI Chicago said, “We cannot downplay the cost in lives and on communities, the unaddressed trauma, and our collective struggle to contain gun violence. At the same time, we know that our work is making a difference.” He also highlighted research from the University of Chicago Crime Lab showing that the men involved in READI Chicago are much less likely to commit violent crimes or be victims of violent crime.
Last January, after three years of 13-15% annual declines in gun violence, CRED Founder Arne Duncan and community leaders set a goal of reducing gun violence by at least 20% per year for five years, which would put Chicago more on par with New York and Los Angeles. In fact, gun violence is up more than 50% in 2020 for both homicides and non-fatal shootings. Nevertheless, Duncan said the goal remains the same.
“Chicago’s murder rate should be on par with other big cities. Right now, we’re not even close. We have to think and act very differently,” Duncan said. He recently called for more narrowly defining police responsibilities, shrinking the department and shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from policing into a variety of community-based approaches to public safety.
Duncan highlighted the Roseland community where Chicago CRED has heavily invested in outreach, counseling, life coaches, job training and education. This year, Roseland had a 17% drop in homicides although non-fatal shootings rose by 23%--which is still well below the citywide increase of 57%. (as of 12/26/20. Source: City of Chicago Violence Reduction Dashboard.)
Next year, the total public investment from local and state sources in violence prevention programs like CRED, READI and CP4P is approaching $60 million dollars. Private funding will boost the overall investment to approximately $90 million. Nevertheless, it remains a fraction of the overall spending on policing, prosecutions and prisons, which runs into the billions, just in Cook County. Health care for gun violence survivors costs billions of dollars more.
The press conference also featured remarks from Angela Hurlock, the Executive Director of Claretian Associates, which works to reduce gun violence in South Chicago and is one of 16 community organizations that make up CP4P. Chad Mitchell, a participant in the READI Program and Dameian Anderson, a participant in CRED program also spoke.
For More Information:
Peter Cunningham – Chicago CRED, 312-636-8619, email@example.com
Bridget Hatch – Metropolitan Family Services, 312-579-6541, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Hoffman – Heartland Alliance (READI Chicago), 708-574-8222, email@example.com
Chicago (December 2020) – Starting this holiday season, Garrett Popcorn Shops is partnering with Chicago CRED, an organization founded in 2016 by former Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reduce gun violence. Among other strategies, Chicago CRED aids young adults with backgrounds in the criminal justice system to break barriers to employment in the legal economy.
Chicago CRED has engaged Garrett as its first major client for its new social enterprise, CREDMADE, a food packaging business. Initially, a team of six CREDMADE employees will fulfill select online orders for Garrett Popcorn Shops. As the business grows, CREDMADE hopes to employ as many 200 people working triple shifts at its warehouse in Pilsen.
"We're very grateful to Garrett for giving our guys a chance. And we're hopeful that other companies in Chicago will seize this opportunity to support our efforts to help reduce gun violence by offering job opportunities to young people," says Duncan.
“With over 70 years in Chicago, Garrett integrates business success with social responsibility,” comments Lance Chody, CEO of Garrett Popcorn Shops. “We’re equally thrilled to support Chicago CRED’s mission and give more Chicagoans a chance to find meaningful, rewarding work.”
Peter Cunningham – Chicago CRED, 312-636-8619, firstname.lastname@example.org Michelle Molise – Garrett Popcorn Shops, 313-549-3137, email@example.com
In 2015, when Arne Duncan moved back to Chicago after serving as President Obama's education secretary, he set out on a listening tour of perhaps the least listened-to young me in America: shooters.
Ducan went to Cook County Jail and to the streets in the Chicago neighborhoods where most of the gun violence takes place, and he asked the same questions over and over to dozens of young, mostly African-American, men: How much money would it take for you to put down the guns?
At first, he didn't believe the answer. For a legal job paying just $12 or $13 an hour – less than Chicago's $14/hour minimum wage – the men said they would put down their guns and turn away from the life they'd been leading. That gave Duncan a great idea.
CLICK HERE to read the full story in Reasons to be Cheerful.
Arne chats with TMZ Live on a more serious topic of discussion: Remote Learning and its Effects on Students' Grades.
CRED uses data to track where shootings happen, and who are the most likely victims and perpetrators. On behalf of the Chicago Mayor's Office, it convenes police, community groups and various city departments that work in Chicago's south and west sides to coordinate efforts. And it uses the power of relationships to create change in people's lives, through violence interrupters and other community outreach workers.
"We're not trying to solve a crime problem; we're trying to solve an economic problem," says CRED founder Arne Duncan. "These are men, not boys, They're going to eat, put a roof over their heads, feed their children. They can either do it through the street economy or legal economy."
CLICK HERE to read the full article in Struggles From Below.
Chicago CRED and our partners had the opportunity to sit down with the Obama Foundation to discuss how we've been working to counter gun violence by investing in young, high-risk men in the South and West Sides of Chicago. CLICK HERE to read the words, the wisdom, the personal stories of struggle, and the insights from members within our organization.
CALLS FOR “REIMAGINING” PUBLIC SAFETY REFLECTED IN CRED-RUN FOCUS GROUPS
URGING PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH TO FIGHTING GUN VIOLENCE
As a first step toward fostering dialogue on how Chicago can “reimagine” public safety, Chicago CRED released a summary of nine focus groups with community partners on the South and West Sides of the city. The focus groups came on the heels of a city budget survey showing broad public support for shifting resources from policing into community services.
Marcus Yancey, a community development consultant, led the focus groups, which were conducted virtually during the months of September and October with participants recruited by organizations that partner with Chicago CRED to reduce gun violence. Yancey summarized the conversations, highlighting a broad range of issues, from trust and communications to diversity and the pressing need for more community investments.
In his report, Yancey said that there was little support for “defunding police” in the strict sense, but there was broad support for reallocating some of the police budget to fund community outreach, drug treatment, mental health and other services that could support a “public health” approach to fighting gun violence.
“Most participants in the discussions did not have a deep disdain for police officers, but many felt police officers were inefficient and overly aggressive at doing their jobs. It is also clear that many believe mental health and substance abuse are primary drivers of violence in our city,” Yancey wrote.
In addition to CRED, several violence preventions organizations helped recruit participants in the focus groups, including IMAN, Target Area Redevelopment Corporation, ALSO, and Institute for Non-Violence Chicago (INVC). Participants included outreach workers, life coaches, gun violence survivors, many of whom were formerly incarcerated, as well as community leaders, residents, and a few elected officials. The participants in the focus group were promised anonymity so they could speak freely about police. The report includes a broad selection of anonymous quotes chosen by Yancey and CRED Staff from more than 13 hours of taped focus groups.
CRED founder Arne Duncan welcomed the report as a first step in a much larger conversation Chicago needs to have about the root causes of gun violence and how the City can address it.
“People understand that police have a role to play but we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Young people most at risk of shooting or being shot are the solution and we have to engage them directly while rebuilding their communities,” Duncan said.
As a next step, CRED will be sponsoring a series of open community meetings on the topic of reimagining public safety. CRED also plans to structure similar conversations with police and other stakeholders. CLICK HERE for the full report.
The City Club of Chicago hosted a virtual Zoom program with guest speaker Arne Duncan. The topic was Reimagining Public Safety.
Guest speakers include Wendy Jones (Executive Director, Youth Peace Center), Jervon Hicks (Life Coach at YPC), and Malik Tiger (CRED Participant).
CAA hosted a special CAA Amplify virtual Town Hall on June 17th, focusing on dismantling systemic racism in business and culture. The event brought together executives from leading organizations in entertainment, sports, media, brands, technology, and social justice in a call to action to end the systemic racism that has consistently oppressed black people.
CLICK HERE to watch the conversation between Arne Duncan and Carmelo Anthony (NBA All-Star, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist).
Violence Prevention Organizations Reflect on 2020 Gun Violence Surge
Call for Increased Funding in Outreach and Community Approaches to Public Safety
Three leading violence prevention groups in Chicago came together today for a Zoom press conference to reflect on 2020’s surge in gun violence and to call for increased investment in community-based approaches to improving public safety.
Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), READI Chicago and Chicago CRED all participated in today’s press conference, where they both acknowledged the progress of the last three years in reducing gun violence has stalled even as their programs show results.
Vaughn Bryant, Executive Director of CP4P and Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, works with more than a dozen community-based groups in Chicago intervening directly in gang disputes, providing direct support services, and steering young people out of lives of crime. He said “our partners are making a difference and we have to take the long view. Change is rarely a straight line but rather a series of ups and downs on our way to the desired outcome.”
“For a host of reasons—COVID, the economy, the George Floyd protests and ongoing systemic oppression—tensions are running very high and that’s driving up the number of shootings. We also know that our outreach programs are reaching the young people most at risk and guiding them away from crime. We just need to do more of it and sustain the effort long term,” Bryant said.
Bryant cited research from Northwestern University showing that CP4P groups contributed to the drop in gun violence between 2016 and 2019. Specifically, the study identifies, “a decline in gun violence beyond what might be predicted from historical patterns.”
Eddie Bocanegra, the Executive Director of READI Chicago, which engages adult men in an intensive program to help them cope with trauma resulting from significant exposure to violence, and develop skills that create pathways to safety and opportunity, cited early analysis data from the University of Chicago Crime Lab that indicates a considerable reduction in gun violence victimization among participants.
“Early results show that the guys in our program are remaining engaged and that they are less likely to shoot or be shot than peers in their same communities. These are among the highest-risk individuals in the city. If we had sufficient funding, we could expand access to READI Chicago. We know that doing so would make our neighborhoods safer,” Bocanegra said.
Arne Duncan from Chicago CRED shared several data points supporting their case for more investment in violence prevention programs. According to the City of Chicago’s violence reduction dashboard, fatal and non-fatal shootings are up by about 50% citywide in the first eight months of 2020 compared to the same time last year.
However, in two adjacent South Side neighborhoods, Roseland and Pullman, where CRED has heavily invested in outreach, therapy, life-coaching, education, job training and placement, fatal shootings are down by 33 percent and 50 percent respectively. In both neighborhoods, the rate of non-fatal shootings is way below the citywide average.
“If we had the resources to invest in every community the way we have invested in Roseland, we could begin to bring down the gun violence to levels that are comparable to other big cities like New York and Los Angeles. Police can’t do it alone. The answer is in the community,” Duncan said.
Jalon Arthur, CRED Director of Strategic Initiatives, shared data from the FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) Program, which has recruited about 350 people to intervene in gang-related tensions and create a safe presence in 77 hot spots spread across 12 Chicago neighborhoods.
FLIP workers typically work afternoons through early morning hours. CRED has tracked 395 separate mediations and 22 non-aggression agreements negotiated by FLIP workers. When they are present at the hot spots, gun violence incidents have dropped almost to zero, said Arthur.
“There are many more hot spots than we can cover, but when our FLIP workers are there, negotiating non-aggression agreements and mediating disputes, we’re saving lives,” Arthur said.
Duncan said that the organizations are grateful to the City of Chicago for investing $11M this year in violence prevention. He also saluted Cook County for investing $5M in violence prevention. But Duncan pointed out that local and state governments are still spending billions on public safety, prosecutions and prisons while most of the violence prevention programs are privately funded.
“Violence prevention is barely a rounding error in our public safety budgets. It’s long past time to begin shifting resources from over-policing, prosecutions and prisons and give many more young people a real chance in life through these kinds of programs. Chicago can lead the nation if we start to think and act differently,” Duncan said.
While recognizing that the city faces enormous budget challenges, the groups have called for $50M in city funding as well as major investments in state funding. A coalition of nurses and activists also called on Cook County last week to shift $157M in public safety dollars into community programs.
For More Information:
Peter Cunningham – Chicago CRED, 312-636-8619, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridget Hatch – Metropolitan Family Services, 312-579-6541, email@example.com
Mailee Garcia – Heartland Alliance, 312-498-2143, firstname.lastname@example.org
On Thursday, September 10, 2020, Chicago CRED held a safe socially-distanced, drive-thru graduation for the 44 young men and women who earned their high school diplomas through Penn Foster. It was an emotional day as families and CRED staff got to witness graduates walk across the stage after months of hard work and dedication during the pandemic.
CLICK HERE to watch a special message for our graduates.
CLICK HERE to watch the graduation highlights.
370 Community-Based Mediators Working at 72 Gun Violence “Hot Spots” For Extended Hours During Memorial Day Weekend
CLICK HERE to watch the press conference.
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A coalition of organizations working to reduce gun violence will have an additional 370 community-based mediators and street intervention workers working overtime during the holiday weekend at 72 “hot spot” locations across 12 Chicago neighborhoods. Chicago CRED and Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P) called this, “One of the largest violence prevention efforts in Chicago’s history,” during an online press conference with outreach workers.
CP4P represents a coalition of community groups working in 23 Chicago neighborhoods to reduce gun violence. CP4P Executive Director Vaughn Bryant says the “hot spot” strategy can help contain this year’s surge in gun violence. Year-to-date, fatal shooting are up 13 percent and non-fatal shootings are up 24 percent over 2019, according to the City dashboard.
“We know where the tensions are high, and we know that direct interventions from trusted friends and neighbors can help deescalate conflicts. These young men and women are using their experience and their relationships to make their communities safer and we should all be grateful,” Bryant said.
Chicago CRED helps steer young people at risk into the legal economy by offering street outreach, life coaching, therapy, job training, and financial support. Chicago CRED Founder Arne Duncan said, “For three years, gun violence in Chicago has been steadily declining and we’re doing everything possible to keep moving in that direction. The courageous young men and women doing this work are a big part of the solution.”
The “hot spot” program, which is also called FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace), employs participants in violence prevention programs as mediators to help deescalate conflicts and create a community presence. They have also been cross-trained to provide public health information related to COVID-19.
The program began in 2018 at 21 sites in three communities, expanded to 55 sites in 8 communities in 2019, and is now targeting 72 sites in 12 South and West Side communities: Austin, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Little Village, Englewood, West Englewood, Roseland, Greater Grand Crossing, West Pullman and Back of the Yards.
The FLIP program launched a month earlier this year than in past years, starting in late-April in some communities and is expected to run all summer and into the fall if funding is available. The total cost of the program is approximately $2.7 million.
Jalon Arthur, CRED Director of Strategic Initiatives, oversees the “hot spot” strategy implemented by seasoned CP4P and CRED partners: INVC, ALSO, Breakthrough, UCAN, New Life, Target, Acclivus, and CRED. He believes this strategy contributed to drops in gun violence during the last couple of summers but acknowledges this is, “One strategy among many that are collectively working to transform communities over time, and the impact in 2020 remains to be seen.”
Over Labor Day weekend in 2019, a group of 80 Chicago CRED members, staff, friends and family traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C. to tour the historic Nation’s Capital.
Highlights of the trip included visits to African American cultural landmarks, including Howard University and the African American History museum. The trip also allowed the CRED men to leave Chicago during the holiday weekend, historically a period of heightened violent crime in the city.
In a ceremony on August 15, 2019 a crowd of family, friends and fellow CRED members celebrated as 52 graduates received their diplomas. The afternoon featured speeches from students and mentors, concluding with a spoken word performance from Grammy-winner J Ivy.
WTTW in Chicago profiled CRED's approach to solving the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, at a time when the city deals with the annual summer increase in shootings.
The ConTextos Authors Circle was developed in collaboration with young people at-risk of, victims of, or perpetrators of violence in El Salvador. In 2017, this innovative program expanded into Chicago to create tangible, high quality opportunities that nourish the minds, expand the voices and share the personal truths of individuals who have long been underserved and underestimated. Through the process of drafting, revising, and publishing memoirs, participants develop self-reflection, critical thinking, camaraderie, and positive self-projection to author new life narratives.
On Friday, April 6, 2018, 24 more young men from Chicago CRED walked across the graduation stage. After months of work through Penn Foster's online degree program, they earned high school diplomas—another step in the journey toward transforming their lives and communities.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Emerson Collective Managing Partner Arne Duncan said, "Despite all the challenges and all the pain you sometimes feel, I am wildly optimistic about where our city is going to go. And it's not because of what us older folk are going to do. It's going to be because of your hard work, your leadership."
At NationSwell’s fifth annual Summit, Billy joined Emerson Collective Managing Partner Arne Duncan and two recent Chicago CRED graduates, James Collins and Deontae Allison, for an hourlong discussion to explore better avenues to dramatically curb shootings in one of our nation’s greatest cities. In the context of the work of Chicago CRED, Arne, Billy, James and Deontae implored the audience to draw closer to the root causes of gun violence, and to better understand the young men involved in some of Chicago’s most broken neighborhoods—and, most importantly, how peace and safety begins with creating new, reimagined relationships.
On March 24, 2018, millions of young people rallied around the world to end gun violence and enact policy reform. Men from Chicago CRED joined more than 400 Chicago youth at the event, adding their voices on behalf of the movement to end gun violence in Chicago.
Arne Duncan and Dale Erquiaga Op Ed in USA Today