Recent days have offered a grim reminder of just how serious Chicago’s violent-crime problem has become.
“Four years ago,” the Chicago Tribune reported last Friday, “Chicago didn’t record 400 homicides until just before Thanksgiving Day. The city has already passed that mark this year. Chicago is on pace to have a deadlier year than 2016, when gun violence reached levels not seen in 20 years, according to data kept by the Tribune. While fewer people have been shot this year, more of them are dying from their wounds.”
Over a 19-hour period stretching from Friday into Saturday, the Tribune reports, no fewer than 18 people were shot, and four of them were killed. The shooting victims included a 4-year-old boy who was shot along with his mother (who died from her wounds), and an 89-year-old man whose arm was grazed during a drive-by shooting.
All told, at least 35 people were shot between Friday evening and Monday morning, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Earlier today, the Chicago Police Department reported that, in July as a whole, Chicago witnessed 74 murders and 321 shootings with 410 shooting victims.
This is the awful, heartbreaking “new normal” for America’s third-biggest city. “Children in large portions of Chicago grow up afraid to venture outside,” the New York Times noted in May. “Teenagers are buried with numbing regularity.”
Writing in the Wall Street Journal back in March, Gary MacDougal argued that former President Barack Obama — who lived in Chicago for many years and continues to own a home on the South Side, where much of the violence has been concentrated — is uniquely positioned to help turn things around.
MacDougal is the former CEO of Mark Controls Corporation, and in the mid-1990s he chaired the Illinois Governor’s Task Force on Human Services Reform. He believes that Obama should work with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to establish a similar task force aimed at curbing the city’s murder epidemic:
No one is better equipped than the former president to do this. Mr. Obama is extremely popular in Chicago’s black community and young gang members who have ignored all previous calls to put down their guns might actually listen to him. There may be as few as 2,000 individuals driving most of the violence. If they can be reached and redirected, the situation would change dramatically.
The task force would be charged with developing and implementing a strategy for connecting at-risk youths to jobs. Policing and judicial issues would also be part of its brief, as would restricting the flow of illegal guns and drugs flooding Chicago’s streets. The goal would be to make Chicago the safest large city in the country.
Yes, task forces can actually do such things. For four years I was chairman of the Illinois governor’s statewide task force on human-services reform, focused on moving people from government dependency to self-sufficiency. We gathered the right people around the table from troubled neighborhoods, state agencies, the business community, academia, local nonprofits and the governor’s office. Helped by the 1996 federal welfare reform, we developed and implemented holistic, not fragmented, services for those in need, with a focus on outcomes. The number of Illinois residents on welfare plummeted from around 640,000 to fewer than 50,000, with most of those leaving for a job.
Mr. Obama, who was then an Illinois state senator, was part of our effort. I wrote a book about the task force’s work. He told me he read and enjoyed it. Hopefully he remembers how successful this approach can be.
In recent weeks I have spent considerable time in Chicago’s struggling neighborhoods. I have met with residents, public officials, police and members of the business community. The city’s violence problem is deeply rooted and complex. Addressing it will require a broad-based, high-level effort. Chicago has resources. Unfortunately many of them are currently fragmented and unfocused. A task force led by Mr. Obama could more effectively bring them to bear.
To read MacDougal’s entire article, go here.