Communities Call on Mayor to Focus on Investments to Address Gun Violence
More than 65 community, faith, legal and policy organizations from across Chicago have signed an open letter calling for the Mayor to address gun violence by focusing on addressing its root causes. The call comes ahead of Memorial Day weekend, which has become the unofficial kickoff for annual debates about how Chicago should best address the seasonal rise in gun violence.
Every year, our city experiences rising temperatures coinciding with heightened gun violence. This cycle commences with Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent Brown announcing plans for increasing the numbers of police on the streets and the number of people being caged at Cook County Jail. Instead of acknowledging that this violence is a direct outcome of years of divestment rooted in systemic racism, the Mayor and Superintendent have chosen to routinely blame the violence on reforms to our criminal legal system. The city’s “public safety” strategy is not only failing to reduce gun violence, it’s also further destabilizing the communities most directly impacted by it. These policies and their rhetoric are damaging to our collective efforts to attain true community safety. Our city has the second highest per capita spending on police in the country and is home to the country’s largest single-site jail, yet our neighborhoods are still continually subjected to high levels of gun violence.
This year, we say no more. We cannot accept more of the same harmful narratives and policies from City Hall that sideline the root causes of violence and criminalize community members, all while failing to meaningfully invest in what truly keeps us safe.
Our communities’ greatest resource is its people, so it is harmful when our mayor insists that systemic problems will be solved by simply arresting and locking more of our neighbors away. We are calling on Mayor Lightfoot to abandon these policies that have failed to keep us safe, and focus on investing in:
- Community-based violence interruption programs
- Restorative justice programs
- Supportive resources for survivors of violence, including gender-based violence
- Youth programs
- Stable, affordable housing
- Good paying jobs with benefits
- Quality public mental and physical health care
These are the resources that our communities need to thrive, and as long as punishment is prioritized over these supports, we will not achieve community safety. As long as trauma is punished instead of healed, our city will remain trapped in cycles of violence. As long as we fail to redress the economic inequities that precede community violence, we will not be able to stop it. As long as we rely on the systems that have harmed us, we will continue to get the same results.
Tackling violence at the root is a challenging feat, especially when it is entrenched by decades of systemic disinvestment. Chicagoans of various neighborhoods, socioeconomic backgrounds, and identities have long called for restorative approaches to addressing violence in our communities; this most notably includes survivors of violence. Our city is ready to take a public health approach to addressing this long standing issue.
We call on Mayor Lightfoot to rise to the occasion so that our city can rise as well.