While many were on the edge of their seats anticipating the end of the world in 2012, Chicago experienced 506 homicides by the end of the year, according to the Red Eye – perhaps giving Chicagoans a little less reason to feel hopeful with the onset of the New Year.
Chicago’s homicide rate saw a 16 percent increase compared to last year, exceeding even New York City’s, which has over three times the population, according to the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
At Loyola, students are constantly reminded of the increase in crime alerts after armed robberies, such as the one that occurred Tuesday, Jan. 29, in which two men with a handgun allegedly robbed a Loyola student.
The Phoenix Editorial Board feels that these deaths and violent acts prompt serious questions as to what Chicago’s municipality and, even Loyola’s administration are doing to confront these issues.
City officials claim that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the country; the Chicago Handgun Ordinance makes it illegal to have a gun shop in the city, and it also prevents gun owners from stepping outside their houses with guns. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told the Chicago Tribune that officials are working toward new ways to combat the possession of illegal guns, such as increasing the jail-time punishment for people who are caught with an illegal weapon. Another problem McCarthy hopes to solve is the issue of straw purchases, when people buy guns outside the city limits and then illegally sell them back in the city.
Following the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton on Jan. 29, who played in her high school band at the Presidential Inauguration one week prior, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed forth a controversial gun control ordinance, which calls for banks to stop lending money to gun manufacturing companies that are against gun control. The mayor sent personal letters to banks such as TD Bank and Bank of America, requesting them to divest in companies that oppose the ban on military weapons and ammunition as well as comprehensive background checks.
In addition to the mayor’s recent push toward gun control, programs such as Chicago’s gun buy-back program, in which residents turn in their gun or gun replicas to receive a cash reimbursement, have also helped take guns off the street. During an event held in June last year, over 5,500 guns and replicas were turned in by South Side residents.
Since 2004, CeaseFire, an initiative designed to reduce violence and now goes by the name CoreViolence, has also implemented The Violence Interrupter concept, which involves previous gang affiliates actively working in violent-prone neighborhoods to “interrupt” potential violent events. According to an independent evaluation funded by The National Institute of Justice, the program was able to reduce violent crimes in seven neighborhoods, including Englewood, Auburn Gresham and West Garfield Park.
While these methods of suppression and intervention give some hope for a brighter future, we argue that more should be done by means of prevention, such as providing more job opportunities, school funding and job training programs for neighborhoods where unemployment is rampant. It is no coincidence that unemployment and high dropout rates are a common symptom of the neighborhoods suffering the most from these violent crimes.
The Phoenix Editorial Board feels that in order to maintain a healthy and safe community here in Rogers Park, Loyola should also be doing much more to engage the surrounding neighborhood, instead of catering primarily to the college student demographic. While Loyola does sponsor programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Centro Romero and Chicago HOPES for Kids, all of which are centered around youth development in the surrounding area, the spots for these positions fill up very quickly. This means Loyola should be creating more youth programs with local elementary and middle schools. This would also provide great opportunities for more of Loyola’s students to get involved and active with an issue that is vital to the city’s well-being. In addition to youth programs, Loyola could also sponsor job-training programs. This way, Loyola would be encouraged to hire locally, would help preserve the diversity of Rogers Park, and make it a unique and thriving neighborhood.