Protecting Chicago Youths From Violence After School

By Nora Fleming — March 24, 2011 2 min read
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Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit organization of law-enforcement authorities that works to curb youth violence, reports that 3 to 6 p.m. is the peak time for juvenile crime. Studies by independent research groups and organizations like the Afterschool Alliance have shown that good quality after-school programs can often lower the rates of youth crime and delinquency.

Today, NPR’s Morning Edition released another story on youth crime in Chicago, part of a report on the Chicago district’s efforts to make schools safer in the third-largest district in the country. In today’s piece, “Chicago’s Silent Watchmen Guard School Route,” David Schaper reports on specific measures some Chicago schools are using to amp up security and safety measures to ensure students get out of the building and home safely. Education Week reported on the violence that spurred some of these measures, specifically the 2009 murder of 16-year-old honors student Derrion Albert.

Last year, 700 children in Chicago were hit by gunfire, 66 of whom died, the NPR piece says. None of those acts took place on school grounds. Because of extreme violence in out-of-school-time hours, the district’s out-of-school-time safety supports include a recent expansion of its Safe Passage program, which facilitates partnerships with students and their families, the community, and the schools to ensure student safety off campus.

Through the Safe Passage program, the district has spent $5 million on contracts with Community Based Organizations and nonprofits to provide guards along the routes students take to and from school. According to the report, one of these groups is Leave No Veteran Behind, a nonprofit that supports military vets, some of whom are now being hired for $10 an hour to stand sentinel at violence hotspots as students make their way home.

There are no significant numbers yet as to whether the guards and enforcement presence have lowered crime rates in out-of-school-time hours.

The district also offers a number of out-of-school-time programs, including the after-school programs After School Matters and After-School All Stars. New anti-violence efforts have also included mentoring programs, “peace rooms” on campus, and onsite social workers and psychologists.

There are roughly 409,000 students at 675 schools in the Chicago district, 86 percent of whom come from low-income families.

According to Tara Andrews, deputy executive director of policy and programs at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, federal funding for juvenile-justice and crime-prevention programs nationwide has declined by 50 percent since 2002, resulting in significant cuts to state and local programs. These funding streams helped support localized programs at the discretion of states and municipalities, and given cuts, many have been wiped out completely, Andrews said.

Additionally, the recent congressional continuing resolutions passed last month cut earmarks that support other juvenile-justice and crime-prevention programs and efforts by $91 million, effective immediately, Andrews said. The appropriations bills proposed in the House and Senate could add further cuts of $20 million to $100 million for these earmarked funds, which can be used for one-time monies to jump-start new programs to reduce crime and promote safety for youths.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.