Watch CBS News

Officials talk about prevention, root causes of violence in Chicago with numbers rising

Officials hold symposium on addressing, reducing violence 02:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Officials on Monday brought community leaders together to focus on violence prevention, at every level, in the city.

As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the reasoning is that fighting and targeting violence and trauma in the city requires the efforts of the entire community.

On Monday, the City of Chicago and the Mayor's office hosted a symposium at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., to address Mental Health, Substance Use, and Violence Prevention. Mayor Lori Lightfoot emphasizes the importance of these factors in the city's comprehensive approach to fighting violence - with numbers on the rise.

In addition to Mayor Lightfoot, participants in the seminar included Tamara Mahal chief coordination officer at the Community Safety Coordination Center; Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health; Matt Richards, deputy commissioner of behavioral health for the CDPH; and Kathy Calderon, director of mental health operations for the same department.

Pastor Chris Harris, who leads the Bright Star Church and Community Outreach program, was the keynote speaker.

A breakdown of citywide police data shows 3,815 violent crimes reported in Chicago through March 6. That is a slight increase of about 4 percent.

Some communities have been bearing the brunt for years. We ran the numbers, and violent crime rates are highest in Austin – followed by South Shore, North Lawndale, and Englewood.

Mayor Lightfoot's response to our question about that violence was: "The violence is a symptom of poverty. It's a symptom of neglect. It's a symptom of a lack of opportunity and resources at the block level. And if we want lasting peace in our city, we've got to address those root causes."

That is the very purpose of the group that gathered for the symposium Monday. The community leaders involved work in a variety of ways to respond to the crimes, the people, their neighborhoods, and the lasting trauma that 3,815 number leaves in its wake.

"I'm 2020 and 2021 we all went through hell," said Pastor Harris. " And here's what I believe - we can do more!"

Harris' Bright Star Church and Community Outreach program is dedicated to kids and families, and Harris says it is already making a difference in Bronzeville.

"Ambassadors who provide trauma-informed services - 50,000 people have been touched," Harris said.

Harris' organization has partnered with Northwestern Medicine, University of Chicago Medicine, and other health organizations.

"Fifty thousand people later, Who have been touched by our helpline - as well as going into the schools, what we call care rooms," Harris said.

At the event Monday, participants learned harm-reduction techniques and received access to Narcan and fentanyl strips for drug overdoses, received trauma-informed training with the opportunity to further develop their skills in dealing with mental health crises, engaged in wellness activities, and developed action plans.

The symposium also featured breakout rooms. One was led by the Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport, based in Chicago.

"This is where we hope we can prove sport has a unique position in creating healing-centered environments," said Pharlone Toussaint, director of external affairs for the organization. "We're in these sessions with youth workers who tell us sport and physical activity are one of the best ways to really address the young people."

The center is work led by research - not only to engage kids, but to work with coaches who can help provide an outlet and accessible solutions to those kids- impacted by trauma.

"We're working with coaches who understand young people's needs more than they're getting, and they see themselves at the first line of defense when young people are suffering from things others don't have the opportunity to support them in," Toussaint said.

The city's Office of Violence Reduction has identified 15 priority community areas for its Our City, Our Safety plan. They are selected based on the number of serious victimizations – which are defined as homicides and nonfatal shootings, a narrower category than overall violent crime.

In order by serious victimization rate, the priority community areas are Austin, North Lawndale, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, West Englewood, greater Grand Crossing, Roseland, East Garfield Park, South Shore, Chicago Lawn, South Lawndale, Chatham, and West Pullman.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.