Community members react to new anti-violence initiative

October 18, 2012

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new anti-violence initiative last Saturday.

The Community Anti-Violence and Restoration Effort (CARE) program is a partnership between the mayor and Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle that includes three main strategies: community-based prevention, youth intervention and the increase of police response after a violent incident. The mayor's office outlines strategies that “call to expand safe passage, create prevention plans and build students re-engagement centers.”

The student re-engagement centers are expected to be located in Little Village, Garfield Park, and Englewood due to their higher drop-out rates.

We wanted to know how different communities struggling with violence felt about the plan, so we hit the streets. We visited Little Village and Back of the Yards to compare an area targeted in the plan with one not targeted.

Little Village reaction

In Little Village we spoke with Michael Rodriguez, Executive Director of Enlace Chicago— an organization that focuses on economic development in the neighborhood.  He was involved in the early planning of CARE and thinks it’s important for the community to be at the center of any of these types of processes.

“[The] government needs to be responsive to communities and we need to continue to advocate for the government to place resources where it’s most effective and that’s in communities,” said Rodriguez.

Some of the neighborhood leadership and open dialogues with community representatives have involved the 11 and 10 police districts – that’s North Lawndale and Little Village. Other South Side police districts involved are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.

Back of the Yards reaction

But Marina Alonso was surprised that the 9th district was not among the areas that were first targeted.  

She is the president of the anti-violence group Mothers for Peace and school community representative at James Hedges Elementary School in Back of the Yards.

“As CAPS facilitator, I am very well aware of the crime areas and I know that we are one or two of the 12 crime areas that they talked about all the time.”

She argues that Back of the Yards could use one of the three centers or at least be part of some of the decision-making process.

“It angers me that here we have young people in this area who have no alternative but to join the gangs because a lot of the programs that are offered to them the parents cannot afford to pay for,” said Alonso.

But Back of the Yards doesn’t fall in the category of communities with the highest crime levels.

From the Mayor's Office

“The immediate need was for those communities where the entire district was in red,” said Felicia Davis, executive director for the mayor’s office of public engagement. “From a violence stand point those districts have the highest crime level red and orange. And the yellow districts are the second wave districts and the 9th district overall falls into that [area].”