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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridget Hatch – Metropolitan Family Services, 312-579-6541, email@example.com
Barbara Hoffman – Heartland Alliance (READI Chicago), 708-574-8222, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com Michelle Molise – Garrett Popcorn Shops, 313-549-3137, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
Bridget Hatch – Metropolitan Family Services, 312-579-6541, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailee Garcia – Heartland Alliance, 312-498-2143, email@example.com
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
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.