Crime Lab seeks community partnershipsBy William Harms
In addition to the human cost of gun violence, felt so wrenchingly on Chicago’s streets and in its homes, a new report from the University’s Crime Lab examines the social costs that amount to $2.5 billion per year, or roughly $2,500 for every household in the city.
The report sets the stage for a new Crime Lab initiative to find and support innovative ideas for preventing gun violence among young people, then rigorously evaluate the programs to see what works best and can be replicated elsewhere.
Today the Crime Lab is launching a design competition for the Chicago Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence Among School Age Youth. The initiative seeks both promising ideas for reducing gun violence and promoting positive youth development in the city’s highest-crime areas.
The Crime Lab will select the most promising project ideas and invite full proposals from these community partners. The Crime Lab will work closely with one or more winning applicants to raise private funding to implement programs that can be rigorously evaluated by University scholars.
Information on submitting a three-page letter of interest is available at http://crimelab.uchicago.edu.
This effort addresses current gaps in research about effective strategies to reduce gun violence, which a blue-ribbon panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences noted in a 2004 report. The hope is to partner insights from city agencies, non-profits and faith-based organizations about the nature of the youth gun violence problem and potential remedies with the Crime Lab’s expertise in carrying out rigorous evaluation projects. Such a partnership would generate evidence about what works best and for whom, while providing a rigorous examination of the problem, much like clinical trials found in medicine.
“Gun violence remains a widespread and preventable threat to the lives and health of Chicago youth and families. So many of these deaths and injuries could be avoided if our society put resources behind the most effective interventions,” said Karen Sheehan, a pediatric emergency physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital. “The University of Chicago Crime Lab’s focus on building rigorous evidence about what works and for whom is an important step forward.”
Although cities across the country have launched numerous programs over the years to prevent crime, few have been implemented in a way that can be rigorously evaluated. As a result, researchers and policymakers have had difficulty learning which projects may work, said Jens Ludwig, Director of the Crime Lab, and the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy.
“Claims of dramatic success are not in short supply, and yet the youth gun violence problem remains,” he said. “The lesson is that progress in addressing gun violence in Chicago, or anywhere, is extremely difficult without guidance about what programs work, for whom, why and how they can be improved.”
Ludwig and his colleagues released a report Tuesday, March 3, entitled “Gun Violence Among School-Aged Youth in Chicago,” which details the scope of the problem. Among its findings:
A grant from the Joyce Foundation supported the initial work of the Crime Lab. The project also received funding from the School of Social Service Administration and the University’s Office of the Provost. The Crime Lab also has worked intensely with community organizations. Its work is just one example of the University’s significant contribution to addressing the challenges facing urban America.