University of Chicago Crime Lab: The Next 10

University of Chicago Crime Lab: The Next 10

October 17, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


In 2016, we had over 750 homicides, nearly
4,000 shootings—more than New York and L.A. combined. We all have a problem with
gun violence that is almost unheard of in any other affluent country in the
world. What would happen if our government agencies and departments
broke down every barrier, worked in partnerships, shared information and data,
all for the benefit of our citizens? We started the Crime Lab ten years ago with
the idea that we could have impact by working very closely with government
agencies to try and solve these complicated social problems right now
that no city in the country really has a solution to. There was a lot already
going on—lots of nonprofits, lots of people in neighborhoods already working
to try to have an impact, but what was lacking was an ability to understand
which of those efforts really was moving the needle. And so the University of
Chicago recognized research was a core strength that it had, and we ought to be
partnering to generate the evidence. Crime Lab started out with this
purposeful intent to be actively engaged with government agencies and working
together to implement, analyze, iterate. The data are people. Those are people’s
stories being told, and we have a huge responsibility to make sure that we are
doing our best to both tell the truth and understand what’s working and what’s
not working. My brother he booked for like 20 years,
my sister’s—all them had kids at young ages, my mom went from her mom and dad when she was twelve years old. My dad, he pretty much walked out of my life when I was about 13 years
old. I was 13 years old first time I witnessed someone shot and killed, and then
the following the year got involved in streets. I was part of one of the local
gangs. My mom passed in the year of 2000—she was murdered. My dad has been in out of
jail all my life. Go into a classroom and ask the question, “How many people you
know who have been a victim of homicide?” Ask that question. It was a tale of two
cities, and it still is. You talk about a 10 year history and relationship, and
this partnership coming together in ways that are literally helping to save lives.
When I was District Commander, and we tried to figure out and predict where crimes would
happen, we kind of did it on paper and a board and a chart and kind of
looked at historical, and kind of looked at—we were trying to do those things,
but not using the data analysis that we were able to do with a Crime Lab. We
could bring the power of data and science to bear, to partner with their
insights, co-producing the knowledge in many ways, leverage a little bit of
private money for a demonstration into changing what the public sector does
with its much greater level of resources. Whether it’s Chicago or Philadelphia or
anywhere else, the police departments of those great cities and the great work
that those men and women do cannot in many instances by themselves stop crime,
prevent crime, and it really has to be a community-wide
effort. If you look at what the city of Chicago has done, it’s leaned very heavily
on social programs; right, so, for instance the youth guidance Becoming a Man
program and variants of that have become a really important centerpiece of the
city’s anti-violence strategy. So aside from having an impact on crime per se
and an impact on the city, Crime Labs also had an impact on the way we think
about addressing social problems at the University of Chicago. READI Chicago is a
program that is designed to reduce violence in our city by focusing with
individuals who are more likely to be victims and offenders of violence, particularly gun violence. What this initiative is doing for these young men,
man this is unparalleled. For this population, again, unparallelled. Thankful to READI, in the program we get—we get a chance that’s to have these these eight
hours off the street, and we’re learning these these job techniques, we’re getting
this job training, going through these jobs transitions. We’re getting this
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is extremely important. I think CBT is
probably the most important thing that we get out of this whole READI initiative. Our city is an amazing city, very vibrant, very resilient. I like to think
of this this this vest right here as like a cape, you know what I’m saying?
Because when I wear this, I feel like a superhero, I feel like um READI Chicago,
we are the neighborhood heroes. We are the future of the neighborhood heroes. I know without a shadow of a doubt if it
wasn’t for this program and probably me switching schools and doing what I did, I
probably wouldn’t be here right now. I am a damn graduate. I’m now a damn Counselor,
and I work in a CPS school counseling and mentoring youth. WOW changed my life,
like I would probably be dead right now honestly. I’m not even gonna lie. In
those times where I told them I’m ready to give up, I’m gonna just turn around
and go back to what I’m used to, they genuinely touch my shoulder, hug
me just be like no you’re not doing that, right. We brought you here for a reason
like we trying to, you know, officially 360, turn you around. I
think we’ve started to accomplish something useful over the last 10 years,
but we’ve got a lot of work left to do. I really do believe that we can see a day
where your talent and your capability is what determines your destiny, not what
zip code you’re born into or what color your skin is, and I think really showing
the government how to invest resources in ways that make that true has been, you
know, the work that we’ve tried to do. I know it sounds grandiose, but really at
the end of the day that’s what this is about.