Why Community Leadership should call Chicago Violence a Public Health Epidemic (Crisis)

09/13/2016 04:24 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2016
In this May 30, 2016, photo, police work the scene where a man was fatally shot in the chest in Chicago's Washington Park nei
(Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans, AP)
In this May 30, 2016, photo, police work the scene where a man was fatally shot in the chest in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood.

For those who live in Chicagoland and surrounding communities official efforts to change the underlying conditions that contribute to violence—in homes, schools, and neighborhoods have largely failed as they have now reached and are surpassing historical levels of citizen homicides. There is a strong and growing base, grounded in research and experiential evidence (practitioner and community wisdom) that supports this fact. Many activist on the ground as well as everyday citizens in the community also believe that violence is preventable, not inevitable only if the correct tools and resources are in place. More specifically, the community knows what it takes to prevent violence.

Coming off of a violent Memorial Day weekend, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson did strike a similar theme in a speech to the City Club of Chicago, bemoaning the senselessness of all the shootings, the department's fractured relationship with the community and the broken judicial system that is too much a revolving door for the most dangerous criminals. Johnson also lamented a gang culture that sinks its hooks into youngsters in Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods "almost at birth," he said. “So by the time they're 12, their destiny is set," he told a few hundred civic leaders. "It's either prison or death."

Recognizing violence to gain support

Recognizing violence is a crucial prevention issue for health and equity, according to various members of a coalition comprised of activist, community organizers, leaders and well wishers-all who already have made various commitments to helping city devise comprehensive plans and strategies for reducing and preventing violence and are calling for their effort to categorize, “Violence,” as a “Public Health Epidemic,” in hopes this effort will catalyze national momentum. They intend to launch their efforts by asking for support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The University of Chicago, and other major public institutions. Leading organizations on the ground thus far are The Violence Interrupters, Freedom First International, The Chicago S.C.L.C, along with a growing list of others.

According to a recent PBS interview by Lori Lightfoot. Lori is The President of the Chicago Police Board and the head of The Police Accountability Task Force. "It’s not an issue that the police department can solve by itself. They absolutely have a role to play, but so do our federal law enforcement partners, as well as the faith community, the people that are out there in those neighborhoods, and we have got to create a space where those conversations can be had."

Again, the issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our local culture, which is precisely the reason why we must take a public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe. As we stated, Chicago Gun Violence has now reached historical levels-At a 46.6% year over year increase. Also, we must now place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence but again this can best be implemented though high level organized research. The other benefit of reclassifying violence in Chicago as a public health issue is that high level assistance can further the effort to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands and to expand access to mental health services to those who need it most. Hopefully this effort will stop the violence and help those offenders in Chicago to “Put the Guns Down, ” and “ save lives.

What you can do to support the effort

Please feel free to sign the petition on the link below.



Gregg L. Greer a Public Speaker, Minister, Social Activist, Journalist and the Editor of the One World internet journal. Greer founded Freedom First International in 2009. If you are interested in interviews from his and others of the brightest minds today, you can email him at one1worldtoday@gmail.com. For more information go to www.gregglgreer.com

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