Program Note: Tune in tonight to watch Sudhir Venkatesh talk to Anderson about the violence in Chicago on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET
Chicago has experienced a rise in youth violence, particularly in its inner-city neighborhoods. There have already been 36 school students who have been killed so far this year, which is troubling, and many young people have been hurt in the shootings.
One factor causing the violence is the large-scale demolition of the city’s public housing developments. When the “projects” were torn down, over 20,000 families were sent to other neighborhoods. This means that over 100,000 poor people had to find a new place to live. Nearly 90 percent ended up moving to other poor neighborhoods in Chicago that were as crime-ridden as the projects. This also meant that the kids had to cross gang boundaries. It is not an accident that youth violence is occurring in and around Chicago schools because gangs spend a lot of time recruiting in school areas. The youth who ended up in new schools were assumed to represent an enemy gang, even if they had no gang membership.
The situation has become explosive.
Chicago also has some of the most corrupt and ineffective police. In low income minority neighborhoods, residents and police still don’t get along. The result is that people feel unsafe and don’t rely on the law to come to their aid. Instead, they will sometimes take matters into their own hands, which can lead to further escalations in violence.
The city needs to spend time and money providing opportunities for youth in some of these neighborhoods. Most of the resources are in the elite areas of the city, near the Lakefront, but they are most needed in the middle and working-class neighborhoods. Hopefully this recent violence will serve as a wakeup call for Mayor Daley’s administration.
Otherwise, things might get worse.
Editor's Note: Sudhir Venkatesh is a professor of sociology at Columbia University. He has spent over two decades studying gangs in Chicago and New York. His most recent book, based on that research, is Gang Leader for a Day (Penguin Press).
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