Police superintendent addresses concerned students regarding citywide violence

By The Columbia Chronicle

by Kaylee Fowler, Metro Editor & Mark Minton, Assistant Metro Editor

In response to Chicago’s growing violence epidemic, a group of high school students affiliated with Columbia drafted letters to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy expressing their fears and offering solutions to the problem. On Sept. 13, McCarthy met on campus with some of the students who voiced their concerns.

The students are involved with Columbia Links, a mentoring program offered by the college that teaches high school students journalism skills. As part of the summer session, a number of students compiled their letters into an anthology titled “Don’t Shoot. I Want to Grow Up.”

“We tend to try to steer [the students] toward other topics, but they still want to write about [violence],” said Celia Daniels, a Links mentor who developed the idea for the work. “So I said it’s the proverbial elephant in the room [and] let’s let them write about it.”

Daniels said the students were given one week to draft their letters, which were published as a collection. The book received a lot of publicity, which prompted McCarthy to pay the students a visit.

Approximately 12 of the students gathered for a roundtable at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building and took turns reading portions of their writing for McCarthy. Their essays addressed topics such as gang activity, drug use and curfew awareness.

“When I walk around my neighborhood and see domestic violence, the police would drive through and blow a siren just to clear everyone out,” read Diamond Trusty, a junior at Prosser Career Academy. “Honestly, clearing everyone from the scene is just giving them an opportunity to move the violence to a different location.”

The students also offered possible solutions to the violence.

“To keep parks in better areas on the South and West sides of Chicago safe the city should [assign] more police officers on certain streets,” suggested Averie Allen, a sophomore at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. “This initiative can also present many new job opportunities for people [who] are unemployed. Thus, this solution can help lessen violence and create a better economy in Chicago.”

McCarthy addressed their concerns by elaborating on what the Chicago Police Department has done and will do to alleviate the problem.

“This [violence] is not a new issue to Chicago, yet it’s being advertised as such,” McCarthy said. “There were four consecutive years, 1991 to 1995, when there were 900 murders per year. The last eight years we’ve had about 450.”

While the murder rate isn’t at a historic high, McCarthy said the CPD is still working to combat the issue by confiscating guns.

“We just took a gun off the street that was used in World War II in 1945,” he said. “Guns stay out there until we get them off the street. [They aren’t] like milk; there is no expiration date.”

In addition to increasing citywide gun control, McCarthy said the CPD is using social media to identify potential criminals and is working to set up anonymous tip hotlines.

McCarthy said the department also plans to contract with high-profile celebrities to appear in public service announcements to advocate against violence.

According to Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services, new anti-violence programs are being developed to deter adolescents from getting involved with crime.

“We’re at a time right now that we can’t afford to [fund ineffective anti-violence programs],” Diaz said. “Starting in January, we’re putting $1 million into youth violence prevention programs that have measurable impacts on violence reduction.”

Diaz added that the DFSS would continue to evaluate its programs and create new ones until it finds one that works to reduce violence. She added that receiving feedback from those who actually reside in dangerous areas is beneficial in working to develop solutions.

“To hear from the young people who are impacted by the violence every day in their communities [is most helpful],” Diaz said. “[Their] solutions have more weight than the solutions we’re hearing every day from bureaucrats.”