Is South Bend's new anti-violence strategy working in Chicago? - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Is South Bend's new anti-violence strategy working in Chicago?

Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy Director Chris Mallette Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy Director Chris Mallette
Chicago Justice Project Executive Director Tracy Siska Chicago Justice Project Executive Director Tracy Siska
The new group violence intervention strategy just implemented in South Bend has been in place in Chicago since the summer of 2010.  We traveled to Chicago to find out, is it working? 

The Executive Director of Chicago's Violence Reduction Strategy, Chris Mallette, has lead a total of 24 call-ins.  That's where parole and probation officers order gang and group members to come to a face-to-face meeting with police.  "I call it a Honeymooner intervention, if you will, which is kind of, 'I know that you know that you know that I know.' We know who you are, what you're doing, where you're doing it, who you're allied with, who you're beefing with, who is carrying the guns, why you're killing each other," Mallette says. 

Police make a pledge at a call-in, that the next gang or group to cause violence will feel the spotlight.  "You can imagine, you're in the city of Chicago and here's your stack of warrants and now all of the sudden you're group is going up to the top of the stack," he explains. 

Social service agencies at the call-in offer help and Mallette says 40% of the people who attend are now seeking it out.  "We can't promise you a job," Mallette says.  "What we can promise you is if you are interested in going a different direction we will assemble a team to help you get where you're trying to go."

When you explain to people in South Bend, that police are implementing a strategy already underway in Chicago, some are skeptical. 
The headlines about crime in Chicago aren't always flattering.  There have been weekends where multiple people are shot and killed, but Chicago Police say the number of homicides in the city has dropped from 459 in 2009 to 415 in 2013. 

We asked John Jay College Professor David Kennedy, who developed the violence reduction strategy, for a status update on the progress in Chicago.  "It is not working as well as any of us involved want, so nobody is satisfied right now," he says.  "At the same time, homicides have been coming down quite steadily."  Kennedy says year-to-date in 2014 homicides in Chicago are down to mid-1950's levels and he believes the strategy is driving the decline.

But what are people saying who aren't directly involved in this strategy?  What do they think about its impact? 

"I think it's worth exploring.  It's one of the few programs that has any sound social science research behind it," says Tracy Siska.  Siska is the director of the non-profit research organization called The Chicago Justice Project.  He's also an instructor at UIC's Department of Criminology, Law and Justice.  He says the root cause of violence is poverty.  "There are no jobs interviews to be had, especially in these neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Chicago for low-skill and no skill workers," he says.  "Those jobs are disappearing."

Siska says politicians need to direct resources to attracting companies with good paying jobs to the inner-city.  "Long term for South Bend, and for any urban community, really if you're not going to talk about finding ways to employ people, all of these programs, no matter how well put out, are only going to help a small percentage."

Mallette says the citizens of South Bend should be optimistic about the intervention strategy. 
"It can be done.  It is being done," he says.  "If you do it right and you have the right people in place, and really to a large extent you can really keep politics out of it and just focus on the people and really focus on public safety in this thing, you can achieve substantial gains."
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