While this is officially National Youth Violence Prevention Week (April 7-11), the truth is, we need 52 such weeks a year -- not one. After all, when a typical week for young people nationwide between 10 and 24 years of age includes more than 90 homicides and over 13,000 emergency room visits due to assault, something is very wrong.
And last week alone, right here in Chicago, 14 young people in that same age group were shooting victims and, during a typical school week, 125 students are arrested at Chicago's public schools, reports the Project NIA advocacy center.
This can't go on. It's not only obviously devastating for our juvenile population, but, to be blunt, it's bad for business. Consider that Chicago is home to the unique tech incubator 1871, a new world-class digital manufacturing lab, the country's largest urban medical district and universities that produce a profound number of Nobel Prize winning scholars, yet CNN uses Al Capone as a lead-in to youth violence in Chicagoland.
Juvenile violence is an issue that jeopardizes so many critical components of what makes a successful company, city and community in an increasingly competitive economic-development landscape. That's why we're striving in Chicago to develop a strong, skilled workforce, vital jobs, above-average and improving educational performance, thriving businesses and youth and families hopeful about their lives and the future.
That's why companies such as Aon, Boeing, PNC and Guggenheim Capital, among many others, have helped to launch Get IN Chicago, a private-public partnership, with a $50 million commitment that will bring the same rigor to programming and measurement that have made these businesses so successful in the first place to programs designed to reduce youth violence.
What makes Get IN Chicago different is that unlike previous well-meaning organizations and efforts, Get IN Chicago will apply solid and scrupulous analytical and measurement tools when choosing pilot programs to fund. It also will employ equally careful measures to gauge their progress or lack of it; seek projects that center and collaborate in the neighborhoods where at-risk youth live; foster inventive interventions based in evidence that estimates their impact in reducing youth violence; and repel the usual lobbying and political clout that far too often determines which Chicago projects get funded without regard for outcomes.
Get IN Chicago is committed to resisting the pressure and the reality of political decision-making when making our critical decisions on projects and funding. It is the only way we will make progress and provide a positive return on investment for our funders, and most importantly, for our at-risk youth, our communities that require vital economic transformation, and a city and nation desiring real remedies to this so-far intractable problem.
So, yes, this week is important as a reminder of what is at stake, and what needs to be done. But the problem won't go away next week, or the week after that. It is here to stay, unless we band together and take a new approach to curbing youth violence. Then, perhaps, we can all take a week off.