The Problem of Youth Violence

October 21, 2009

Chicago gets lots of attention these days, both good and bad. It’s a beautiful, wonderful, complicated, and diverse city, with great assets but many challenges.
Most recently, the beating death of a Chicago public school student was videotaped and displayed on YouTube for the world to see. The images are chilling and frightening. Upon viewing the video, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded, “America has seen a side of Chicago that we all wish didn’t exist. This young honor student had his whole life ahead of him—but now it has been cut short by senseless violence."
Tragically, this violent act is not an isolated one. The murder of young people in Chicago and other towns and cities is becoming commonplace—and the weapon of choice is most often a gun. From January to August of this year, 152 children and young people were murdered in Chicago, the vast majority (80%) by guns. Across the country thousands of young people are shot and killed every year.
The debate on how to reduce youth violence is hot right now—recent articles have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philanthropy’s role? Well, one thing we know for sure is that we don’t know enough about what actually works to reduce youth violence. Chicago funders have stepped up to support the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago, which will track and evaluate several major intervention projects. Other efforts include working with the CDC to collect more data on violent deaths and joining forces with America’s mayors to stop the flow of illegal guns.
Youth violence is a complex public problem that demands a comprehensive approach from local, state, and national leaders. For a comprehensive strategy to be successful there must be an honest discussion of the role of guns, and recognition that easy access to lethal weapons is inextricably linked to violence involving youth.
Tomorrow: Improving Census Data.
Tuesday's post: Designing Efforts and Charting Courses of Action.
Monday's post: Reasons for Optimism.

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Ellen S. Alberding


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