Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ceasefire, Chicago

Capitolfax asked what government can do to stop teen violence in Chicago. I took the challenge as a Democrat to come up with a list of ideas that didn't include gun control.

Why did I leave tougher gun control out? Mayor Daley is dogged when he really wants something, like the children's museum. But he's been talking about tougher gun control laws once a year now for atleast 10 years. I figure he must like talking about them more than he likes passing them.

I know some conservatives want to deny there's a link between crime and poverty. Just as some liberals want to deny there's a link between juvenile delinquency and single-family households. I'm told there are also people who still think the Earth is flat and the Moon is made of bleu cheese.

I think we can all agree poverty and broken families put kids and communities at greater risk. The root causes of crime are so complex and individualized that they are extremely difficult to prove, with many contribution factors, so its time to stop offering Magic Bullet solutions like one more gun law. At the same time, we shouldn't shirk from our responsibility to provide a comprehensive plan just because we're not sure of all the answers yet. That's why it took us 50 years to take on Big Tobacco and we still haven't addressed global warming.

So, here's my list:

1. Stop closing schools in Chicago without community input. Much of the escalating violence can be traced directly back to Mayor Daley’s decision to close schools, shifting kids with different gang allegiances to different schools.

2. Decrease classroom sizes and increase the number of teaching assistants. Disorder in the classroom leads to chaos outside the classroom, and class sizes are completely unmanageable.

3. Reinvest in extra-curricular programs, arts, music, and physical education. These programs are proven to motivate academically challenged kids and lift their performance. They also keep kids off the streets and away from gangs during after-school hours.

4. Strengthen community policing in troubled neighborhoods, and invest in a “Weed and Seed” program. East St. Louis’ “Weed and Seed” program is a cooperative effort between local, state and federal law enforcement that relies on a local community policing as its backbone, cracks down on career criminals (weeds) by going after them for everything from jaywalking on up, disrupting criminal networks.

5. Restore public faith in the police. Police can’t do it alone, they need community support, but Chicago has done everything possible to undermine public support, from John Burge on down.

6. Invest in communities. Unemployment in Chicago’s struggling neighborhoods is off the charts, especially among teenage black men. Black and Latino neighborhoods are shortchanged on everything from parks to schools to streets to police to economic investment.

7. Increase TANF payments. Public assistance payments (TANF) haven’t been increased since the 80’s, inviting crime into poor neighborhoods.

8. Reform our juvenile justice system. Many parents see their kids headed down the wrong path, but there’s nowhere for them to turn for help. If they go to the police, their son goes right to the juvenile detention center, and while the JDC is making progress down the road to reform, most people think their kids would be better off on the streets.

9. Reform DCFS. If parents turn to DCFS, they worry about having all of their kids taken away from them, and then having their parental rights severed.

10. Pass a Living Wage Law in Illinois. No parent should have to work two or even three jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table, and we can’t expect anyone to be much of a parent if they are working 16 hour days seven days a week. Most are doing a heroic job of juggling it all, but something inevitably is going to fall.

11. Strengthen our child support enforcement. Last time I checked, more than 50% of court-ordered child support goes uncollected, and 2/3 of Illinois employers weren’t complying with a law requiring them to report new hires. Let’s increase fines for employers who aren’t in compliance and allow enforcement lawyers to go after them for treble damages if they’re sheltering a delinquent parent. And lets create interstate agreements with our neighbors so deadbeats can’t simply shirk their responsibility by going to work in Indiana.

12. Boarding schools. (Hattip: Ghost)

13. Comprehensive sex education and free contraception. (Can't remember who said it. sorry:D)

14. More police on the streets. (Hattip: North of I-80) NYC has twice as many patrol officers per square mile.

15. Fully fund drug treatment programs. Illinois has a waiting list of 10,000 addicts seeking treatment. The wait is six months. Telling a crack addict to come back in six months is idiotic.

16. Use smart technology. Flashing lights and cameras on light posts don't deter crime, they just move it a block. But Philadelphia has implemented new data-mining software that analyzes juvenile arrest records to target preventative services to kids that are most likely to commit homicides.


Levois 10:10 AM  

I'm with you on most of these. I will have to disagree with you on three points. I don't agree with your idea of increasing public assistance payments. I really don't know what that would do for the violence out there in the world and I don't have great faith that people who rely on this payments will spend that money on where it should be spent.

I don't believe in a living wage and while I can agree with you on the fact that for instance single mothers have to work two or three jobs to pay rent or for food, I'm more concerned about those who want jobs but they're difficult to come by. I'd say you're community investment idea can do a lot more to change the lot of so many poor individuals than merely instituting a living wage. Plus if the problem was with the cost of food and housing then there's more to the problem than merely institution a living wage. I've read in some places that the standard of living is raising in Chicago, especially in gentrifying neighborhood. I'd rather find ways to lower costs to people than to just say let's create a living wage.

Finally, I agree with the idea of sex education, but when does that start. I'd say it's appropriate to start at 13-14 years old. Any earlier I would say that it would become problematic. And who will provide free contraception. Should it be a public health care facility or a private clinic?

Still I think your ideas are a good start.

crash-dev 7:59 PM  

I think reforming DCFS is a really good idea.

One area where DCFS is lacking is when a parent feels unable to care for a child for a particular amount of time. Maybe 6 months while they get back on their feet. DCFS cannot provide this service, as once the parent is deemed unfit then they loose the child forever.

I believe there are some religious organizations who believe they are doing some very important work by serving this need.

Of course there are a lot of details to work out...this is not a babysitter for people to go on vacation or something, but I believe this could be an effective service.

Note: this is some hearsay, but I trust the people who told me.

Anonymous,  9:35 PM  

I like your ideas. More creative than simply advocating gun control, which has a place too.

That said, to suggest Daley is merely paying lip service to the gun issue is disingenuous.

If the guy cares about nothing else, he has been committed to gun control.

You can love up all over Brendan Reilly and still admit Daley cares about something.

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