A recent study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Pennsylvania found that a public summer jobs program for high school students in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Chicago, Ill., “reduced violent crime arrests by 43 percent over a 16-month period.”
While the success of Chicago’s One Summer Plus program is good news, it’s certainly not a surprise. It’s no secret that Chicago could make great strides in solving its violent crime problem by creating more youth jobs.
The author of the study, Sarah Heller, assistant professor of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, told phys.org, “There are opposing pieces of conventional wisdom on whether a program like this would work. On one hand is the popular idea that ‘nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ On the other is a body of research on employment programs suggesting that only intensive and lengthy interventions can improve outcomes among disadvantaged youth – that one summer could never be enough.”
Only $37 million of the city’s $333 million budget for the Department of Family and Support Services goes towards youth programs in Chicago, according to CBS Chicago. That’s not a lot compared to the $1.4 billion the city spent on the police department.
In a previous article on Atlanta Blackstar, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church on the South Side of Chicago, said that the political focus in Chicago has been on policing, which is only a small part of solving the problems in the city.
“The real issue is, we have to do economic development, make sure there are jobs in our community, home ownership in the community—wherever there is home ownership there is lower crime and violence rates, a substantial amount of investment in the educational system and focus on returning citizens,” Rev. Moss said.
Another concern facing the disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago are the cuts to programs that reduce recidivism rates. Rev. Moss estimated that more than half of the programs have been cut by federal and local government. Chicago’s jail is now the largest mental health facility in the city, because of budget cuts.
Potential investors find the neighborhoods too “risky” to support the building of community centers.
Due to the lack of interest from potential investors, minimal funding from the government and cuts to helpful programs, leaders from within the community have been able to launch projects of their own to create jobs and improve educational efforts in the community.
The One Summer Plus program is a small step forward that could grow into something much larger if the city of Chicago chooses to invest more in the disadvantaged neighborhoods.