Mayor lays out next phase of preventing Chicago violence: investing in communities

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Mayor lays out next phase of preventing Chicago violence
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson set out the next phase of his safety plan to prevent gun violence in Chicago, which he called a hyper-local approach.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Wednesday, Mayor Brandon Johnson was laying out his plans for improving public safety, through investing in communities.

He announced the first four areas that will be targeted as part of his community safety plan.

They include Englewood, Austin, Little Village and West Garfield Park.

West Garfield Park is an example of a community suffering from disinvestment for years. Now the mayor wants to try an approach to fight crime that doesn't involve police.

"What the mayor has done is asked us, the community members, to help him come up with a strategy that will be the best way for us to engage crime," community engagement manager Gregory Matthews said.

Matthews was born in West Garfield Park, and is now doing his part to help address some of the most pressing concerns.

"Open-air drug markets, food deserts, the education aspect of giving our young men and women something else to do," Matthews said.

Each community that is part of the mayor's initiative will target multi-block areas chosen because of high crime and poverty.

In West Garfield Park, one of those areas has abandoned buildings and empty lots that demonstrate the need for investment.

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"We use over a dozen different metrics, covering everything from the number of fatal and non-fatal shootings, indicators of sobering disinvestments, like school closures, unemployment rates," said Garien Gatewood, deputy mayor of community safety.

This next phase of the People's Plan for Community Safety, first announced in December, is focused on what the mayor calls a hyper-local approach.

"When I say hyper-local, I mean we are looking at the challenges and opportunities for our neighborhoods, literally, block by block by block," Johnson said.

The city will be accepting proposals next month for what will initially be a $1 million investment.

Neighborhood peacekeepers think investment in the work they do to discourage crime would help.

"I don't think, I know, because, like I said, I've been in a couple of years now, and I've seen a change," community peacekeeper Perez Funches said.

And while buildings might be boarded up now, this new plan offers possibilities that doors of opportunity may be opened in the future.

"The thing that does excite me right now is the cultural changes that can happen within the people in my community, how we feel about our community," Matthews said.

Investments may take some time to have a direct impact on public safety, but, in the meantime, those invested in the community believe this plan can bring hope that things will get better.

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