How Chicago Can Make Itself Safer than New York (Part I)

Chicago Civic Media
4 min readDec 4, 2017
A tale of two cities (Hellman-Chang)

By Steve Sewall, Chicago Civic Media. Updated 12/13/2018.

Here are Parts II, III and IV. And here is Is Violence Reduction in Chicago Succeeding or Failing?

Part I: Out with Violence Reduction — in with Violence Solution!

Nearly two years ago, a defiant President Trump tweeted that he would solve Chicago’s violence problem if Chicago’s leaders couldn’t.

Said he could solve it in a week.

So has he or anyone in Chicago solved it?

No one’s even tried.

The president? He’s sent in a few ATF agents. Called for Stop and Frisk. And then pointed fingers.

And Chicago’s leaders? They’ve tried to reduce it. Contain it. Curb it. Prevent it. Or crack down on it. Never to solve it.

Without success. Today, wartime levels of violence — over 2,000 shootings so far in 2018 — are an accepted part of Chicago life. Like brutal Chicago winters.

So is violence solvable? Of course it is. Here, in four steps, is how Chicago can make itself as safe as New York.

First, determine whether Violence Reduction in Chicago is Succeeding or Failing.

Second, identify the key shortcomings of Violence Reduction. (For instance, examine the proposed Consent Decree filed September 13, 2018 by three leaders: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.)

Violence Reduction’s failure is owing primary to its inability to involve more than a small fraction of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents. Engaged residents include Chicago’s hugely overworked public safety, public health and public education professionals. And, Chicago’s vastly undermanned community organizations. And that’s about it.

Third, step outside the Violence Reduction box and look for new ideas, such as a citywide Violence Solution strategy committed to connecting and deploying all anti-violence resources, including Chicago’s two most powerful but historically overlooked anti-violence resources. Intelligently deployed, they are far and away Chicago’s most powerful anti-violence resource:

  • The people of Chicago. For decades, Chicagoans have turned deaf ears to the desperate We can’t do it alone pleas of their beleaguered mayors and police chiefs. Yet never has a mayor or police chief sought to tap deeply into the experience, insights and wisdom of 2.7 million Chicagoans of all ages, races and backgrounds. Chicagoans yearn for safe neighborhoods. And their knowledge and cooperation— especially that of the at-risk young people who are the primary victims (and, often, perpetrators) of violence — is critical to any effective anti-violence strategy. Chicago’s initially promising CAPS community policing strategy of the 1990’s languishes today for lack of adequate media coverage. Which brings us to the second undeployed resource:
  • Chicago’s Media. Chicago’s media — its newspapers, radio stations, social media and especially its local TV stations — comprise Chicago’s public communications system. These media possess the modern interactive communications technologies needed to connect Chicagans and to tap deep into their abilities and energies. The same media have have unified Chicagoans around the seasons and championship drives of Chicago’s beloved pro sports teams can unify and empower Chicagoans to make Chicago safe — as safe as New York.

Fourth, deploy all resources. Devise and implement problem-solving media programming and content that generates anti-violence solutions, large and small, that earn the respect of Chicagoans and City Hall alike. (Part II of this series shows how this can be done.)

Chicago’s problem-solving media will cost Chicagoans nothing. Why? Because commercial advertisers will eagerly sponsor large-audience, citywide programming and content that benefits the city and actually succeeds in making Chicago safe for all residents.

So how will Chicago’s political leaders benefit from this deployment? The answer is simple. The leaders who help Chicagoans solve violence once and for all are the leaders whom grateful Chicagoans will remember at the polls and in the history books as well.

Chicago Civic Media therefore proposes game-changing new uses of Chicago’s media.

Here’s just one of many possible such uses. We call it ChicagoWRKS.

It’s for prime-time TV.

It’s ambitious.

It’s a new way of doing politics. It informs and empowers all Chicagoans to solve violence as a city.

And in addition, because gangs, guns and drugs are a region-wide problem headquartered in Chicago, ChicagoWRKS empowers nine million Chicagolanders to participate in the search to solve violence as a region.

Two Million Fans Celebrated the Blackhawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup Triumph in Grant Park (ABC Eyewitness News)

In 2013, two million fans celebrated the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup triumph in Grant Park. Chicago’s media brought them there. Chicago’s media have ample power to mobilize Chicagoans to solve violence and celebrate its solution.

So go for it, Chicago. Play the ChicagoWRKS game. And tell President Trump that Chicago is solving violence — on its own, thank you — in big, dynamic, democratic ways that other cities are fast replicating nationwide.

Part II describes the level playing field that ChicagoWRKS creates for citizens and City Hall in Chicago.

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Steve Sewall, Ph.D., is a Chicago educator, media entrepreneur and Director of Chicago Civic Media.



Chicago Civic Media

Making citizens and governments responsive and accountable to each other at all levels of government with impartial, problem-solving political discourse.