U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis hosted a brainstorming meeting on New Year’s Eve with community members, clergy, and elected officials to discuss ways to reduce the violence that plagued Chicago throughout 2016. The meeting was at the Greater St. John Bible Church on the west side.
Davis and panelists presented shocking figures for the number of homicides and shootings in Chicago during 2016. Davis was personally affected by Chicago’s gun violence; his 15-year-old grandson Javon Wilson was killed in November, 2016 during a dispute over a pair of swapped gym shoes.
Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, saw the most murders in two decades in 2016. The number of murders nearly doubled, from 432 homicides in 2015, to 788 in 2016. That figure represents more homicides in Chicago than in New York and Los Angeles combined, according to police statistics. The year ended with 788 people killed.
Chicago’s murder rate soared by more than 50 percent in 2016 from 2015, spiking a nationwide increase in homicides in the nation’s 30 largest cities. The rate of property crimes and violent crimes remained near historic lows.
The city was gripped in a tide of killings, fueled by use of excessive police force, limited anti-violence programs, gang violence, and poverty.
“There was a boy in my court, 14 years old, and he’s just crying. I asked him about his father and he says, ‘He walked out on us, so I had to do what I had to do to survive’” said Judge Marianne Jackson, Juvenile Justice Division. “This is a 14-year-old talking about having to do what he has to do to survive. Which meant he went into the streets and started selling drugs at 14 years old.”
One report found some correlation between higher homicide rates and entrenched poverty. Cities that had a 10-year trend of greater than average poverty and unemployment also experienced rising violence in the past two years, among those cities was Chicago.
“Keep talking about economic engines, you need an economic engine, but I keep trying to say to you all that there is an economic engine out there and if you don’t come up with something to replace that economic engine that’s out there, then you’re just talking craziness. It’s called drugs,” said Jackson.
“‘Why don’t that mom stop her kids?’ because that 15-year-old is helping to pay some bills. Drugs pay rent, drugs pay light bills, drugs pay gas bills, drugs do it all because that is the only effective employment in the community.
Even as the meeting took place in the church basement, two shootings occurred within two miles of the building.
“What I do is I’m trying to go out to the streets, I am working to stop the violence that is going on out there” Darnell Clark said. Clark, a community member who attended the meeting to voice what he has seen on the streets to the elected officials he feels can help stop it said, “We can have these meetings all day long but unless we have brothers and sisters ready to do the grunt work on their feet in these streets this isn’t going to mean anything.”
Rep. Davis plans another meeting in three months to determine the progress of the ideas shared at the meeting. The date and location have yet to be determined.