The Chicago Tribune sponsored a forum to discuss youth violence in the city, often described as an epidemic, a deadly contagion that infects neighborhood after neighborhood, generation after generation. Students, advocates, and community members proposed strategies of their own, hoping to curb the grim trend that has claimed the lives of 25 Chicago students so far this school year.
Michael Shields, public school director of safety and security, said administrators have already made changes that are paying off. School officials and police have a conference call every morning to discuss overnight violence that could produce aftershocks in the schools, he said. An intense mentoring program meant to eventually reach 10,000 at-risk students has started with 250 of the hardest cases. Jens Ludwig, director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, said the city’s death toll isn’t primarily the result of a brutal mindset, but the presence of guns. Reducing the death toll means getting much tougher on guns and cracking down on people caught carrying them illegally even if the weapons are not used in a crime, Ludwig said.