Teens Meet with Police Chief
Columbia Links high school journalism and news literacy students engaged with Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy at Columbia College Chicago recently after writing about their fears and hopes for the city to be a safe place to live. Their essays are compiled in a booklet, “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Grow Up,” which was presented to McCarthy prior to the meeting.
Students told McCarthy they feel unsafe in their neighborhoods and fear being the next target of a shooting. They see that violence is hurting the image of Chicago as a good place to live and work. “Chicago is known as Chi-Raq to my friends, because it feels as if the streets are at war,” wrote Raymond Roundtree of Options Laboratory High School. Roundtree also wrote that he has had first-hand experience “being jumped, pushed to fight and robbed.”
Diamond Trusty of Prosser Career Academy High School, who lost her best friend in a shooting last year on the South Side, said, “It is your duty to work with us to create drug-free zones, gun-free areas and a safe environment for everyone.”
McCarthy tried to give students hope, assuring them that the city’s murder rate is half what it was eight years ago. “But that’s still not OK.” He listened to the students read excerpts of their works and then challenged them to provide more positive solutions. He provided information and insights into how the police department is using research from social science to more effectively prevent crime.
The police need help to convince people to provide them with vital information on murders, McCarthy added, picking up on a suggestion by Desmond Herring of Gary Comer College Prep to “provide witnesses of crime a safe outlet to inform police.”
McCarthy said an advertising campaign will start soon, using well-known figures from the sports and entertainment worlds, to emphasize the point that it’s not snitching if you are a victim of or witness to a crime. CPD is also establishing an anonymous tip hotline, McCarthy said.
Evelyn Diaz, Commissioner of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services also was at the meeting and told the teens she also is now directing more funding to social programs for youth in the neighborhoods and less to administrative operations.
Columbia Links students hope to present their views along with the booklet of essays to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the coming weeks. Columbia Links is a journalism skills-building and news literacy program for youth and teachers in Chicago Public Schools, housed at Columbia College Chicago.
Photo credit: James Foster, Columbia Chronicle