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What Can Make Chicago Safer?

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Before summer officially begins, Chicago is dealing with more than just a spike in temperatures. It seems as if hot weather brings some of the wrong people outside who contribute to a rise in reported crimes. Whether it is a promising college graduate hit by a stray bullet or people viciously beaten for their iPods, "local news" has become synonymous with "bad news." This has led me to wonder what can be done to keep our city safer. The sad thing is I've been writing about this topic for over a year now and nothing seems to be working.

The old saying is "misery loves company" and I couldn't agree more. If you have ever been to Englewood, Garfield Park, or Roseland, you would understand how living in destitute conditions could make some folks feel hopeless. The schools are decrepit, the jobs are scarce but the drugs and gangs tend to be in abundance. All of those things create an unbalanced outlook on life. But don't be quick to have a judgmental view without judging yourself first. Sure, a lot of us grew up poor but never robbed anybody. However, we didn't grow up poor AND ignorant. That's the real problem. When people know better, they do better.

A lot of you might be reading and going, "Okay, Zack. What needs to be done to curb the violence?" I don't have all the answers, but I'm sure that all of us together can solve this problem. Unfortunately, that's a problem within itself. You can't make the general public understand something they don't care about. People read tragic headlines all the time and feel like that could never happen to them or somebody they love. The best way to get people to care is to make them realize that it can happen to them. The media doesn't have to use scare tactics but it must be honest with the citizens about how random violence does not have predictable victims. Random violence tends to affect random people.

For one thing, we have to be more aware of our surroundings. Some of us are way too addicted to social media. Facebook and Twitter can be fun, but being hypnotized by a microblog is not worth losing your life. We need to collectively make one person's problem our business. If you see somebody being beaten or someone pulling out a gun, call the authorities or find a safe way to help the situation. Crime happens in seconds, while police come in minutes. Don't wait on law enforcement to protect you from what you can prevent if you properly educate yourself.

Another suggestion is for people to be more friendly with strangers. Don't be so quick to rush to the comments section and put me down. Keep reading. One of the reason why there is so much anger and contempt is because our city has a culture of rudeness. While a lot of tourists feel that we are friendly, we tend not to be nice to our fellow citizens. Instead of cursing out homeless people or brushing off panhandlers, try to give them a smile or tell them to have a nice day. When you create a culture of love and respect, there will be a slight change in the behavior of some people. I have yet to see a mentally sane person who will attack somebody they view as a friend. People tend to attack those they view as enemies.

Most importantly, Chicagoans need to be united. We don't have time for frivolous debates in comment boxes with cowards hiding by pseudonyms. Let's stand up together, put our egos aside, and do what we can to protect our future.

It would be a shame for a city this great to give up our collective future for a selfish present. Our children deserve better and most importantly, we owe it to them.