How do you stop teens from turning to violence? Scholars at the University of Chicago found the research about what really works is thin. As they contemplated beginning research into the issue, Chicago's mayor was asking the say question. The result is a project they gets support from the city and university.
On the edge of the University of Chicago campus, a doctoral student was the victim of a violent crime last year. Amadou Cisse had successfully defended his chemistry thesis days before he was shot and killed. Three teens and a 21-year-old are believed to have been involved. Cisse's death started a chain of events that brings together city leaders and academics.
"I ask myself the question, ok, what about the young men? Who are they? Did they drop out of elementary school, drop out of high school? Do they have any brothers or sisters? Were they in the juvenile justice system? Who are they? What happened to them?" said Mayor Daley.
Thursday, Mayor Daley announced a collaboration with the University of Chicago to look at what leads to such violent acts and what keeps young people from turning to violence.
"That is part of a good plan. Otherwise, we're just going off on, sometimes, tangents and we get there after a year and a half and we find out it doesn't work. And you need that thorough research and evaluation," said Mayor Daley.
"We also hope to generate important new knowledge that sheds light on the causes of youth gun violence and what really works to address this problem, which should be helpful to city leaders, not just here in Chicago but all across the country and even around the world," said Dr. Jens Ludwig, University of Chicago.
The project comes after dozens of Chicago Public Schools children have been killed violently. There have been attempts to reverse the deadly trend: parents and teens cries for change, marches through the community, rallies in front of the Thompson Center and unsuccessful attempts to create new gun control laws.
San Juanita Gonzalez's son and niece were asked to speak at Thursday's press conference.
"There's people fighting for stuff that isn't theirs practically. They're fighting for territory. They're fighting for something that they want to call theirs, which isn't," said Nicholas Maldonado, student.
Gonzalez is part of the volunteer parent patrol in Logan Square. She spends much of her day making sure her kids and other people's kids get to and from school safely. She is eager for solutions to violence and hopes researchers will come into communities to get at the real issues.
"That's what they have to do is look what's going on in the neighborhood. Why are they fighting? Ask these kids, why are they fighting for territory that's not even theirs? Maybe they'll get the answer that way," said San Juanita Gonzalez.
The research team will refine its focus and get private funding. They hope to start some of the research by the end of the summer and may have some answers within a year from the start. Some of the things they may look at are: summer employment programs, as well as post-arrest intervention programs and how they affect violence.