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Be the Change You Wish to See

16 Oct

I love a good press release dressed as news item. According to the Associated Press, on October 14th Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook Co. President Toni Preckwinkle claimed that the program, called the Community Anti-Violence and Restoration Effort, or CARE which involves business and community members in reducing crime, has had success over the past year. According to another news report, community leaders at a news conference at Douglas Park stated that CARE utilizes the three-prong strategy of education, community involvement and fast police response to crime to combat violence.

Naturally skeptical, I dug further only to find a press release, dated October 13th, announcing the C.A.R.E. initiatives to reduce violence and strengthen communities. The initiative includes the creation of three new re-engagement centers to assist high school dropouts in returning to school and a review of all youth murders to determine programs and policies that could have prevented the death. The centers are starting in three communities that have experienced high drop-out rates – Garfield Park, Englewood and Little Village. I wonder if this includes the two teenagers killed just this weekend, as well as the 24 others who were wounded. According to the police, 15 of 24 shooting victims were gang affiliated.

At least the City and County have finally decided to execute a plan. But wait, there’s more. The City and County will jointly dedicate resources to manage the effort, seek public and private funding to test the approach, and eventually allocate funds to expand the most effective and successful strategies. Many businesses including include Allstate, Bain & Company, Burrell Communications, Ernst & Young, IBM, McDonald’s and the University of Chicago Crime Lab have provided financial support and or allowed employees to contribute their professional expertise. As a writer and an editor, I pay close attention to the verb tenses in sentences. It appears to me that the verbs within the phrases, including will dedicate, promises to seek, and will eventually allocate funds, do not indicate that there is actually money being spent.

It also appears as though the initiatives will involve testing to determine the most effective strategies because there simply isn’t enough research to determine what will stem the death toll. The report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which references academic papers and studies conducted and written as far back as 1993, concludes that we need to conduct and rigorously evaluate—first in Chicago and eventually nationwide—promising pilot programs.   (

A wonderful friend suggested to me that we need to stop studying the issues and instead execute some solutions. I agree; we have watched the bodies pile up long enough. Launching another new program, while laudable, is not enough. One more study will not change the fact that we are losing another generation; even those that live, but are touched by violence, suffer from a sense of hopelessness and futility.

So what can one person do against the overwhelming odds? Do something! Mentor one student at a local school. Call the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago at 312.932.1200 or toll free at 800.514.1224 and complain about the closing of the Austin YMCA.  Or call Minneapolis based U.S. Bank over its closing of its full service Austin branch at 800-888-4700. Attend a bi-monthly CAPs meeting. Do not stand by waiting for someone else to step up. Robert Quinn said “One of the most important insights about the need to bring about deep change in others has to do with where deep change actually starts.” And it starts with each of us, now!