Gun Violence Reduction in Chicago
A radical reduction in gun violence is within reach.
Founded by Arne Duncan in 2016 and incubated by Emerson Collective, Chicago CRED is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to reduce gun violence in Chicago by 80 percent.
We work directly with the individuals most likely to carry a gun or get shot. Our street outreach team recruits them into our programming, including counseling, education, and job training. We also use philanthropy to support at-risk communities and support policy that prioritizes their voices in the fight against gun violence.
5 Questions With Chicago
Questions and answers
How does CRED’s work support EC’s mission of shaping an equal and just America?
CRED is focused on reducing gun violence in Chicago, which is a reflection of social and racial inequities with deep, historical roots—recognizing the long legacy of racial injustice in this country. Americans of color continue to experience a very different nation than their White counterparts. As a result, they are less able to build wealth, recover from youthful mistakes, and access opportunities to join the legal economy. Through our holistic approach, CRED hopes to counter these types of systemic inequities and injustices that manifest through gun violence, so Chicagoans can have real opportunities to create a better path for themselves.
Chief of Strategy & Policy
What’s the magnitude of the violence problem in Chicago and what would it take to solve at scale?
Data suggests that at any one time, there are about 25,000 young men—and a few women—at extreme risk of shooting someone or being shot. There also seems to be about 5,000 teens in the pipeline to become high-risk adults. At our best, we’re touching maybe 10% of them. To serve enough young people to reach a tipping point for bringing gun violence down to levels that put Chicago on par with other big cities requires significant and varied funding, over many years. But there’s a lot that’s possible if we rethink how cities and states use their economic growth and invest in the criminal justice system. We estimate the return on investment for cities like Chicago who scale violence prevention programs is nearly 20-1.
Director of Strategic Initiatives
How does CRED’s violence intervention model work?
Our model incorporates four essential elements for reducing gun violence: street outreach, coaching and counseling, workforce development, and advocacy and prevention. After recruiting through word-of-mouth, street outreach workers engage directly with at-risk young men to interrupt conflict and retaliation, and get ahead of potential violence. We then immediately provide a life coach and therapy clinician to provide personal and mental support. The other elements of our model come through the direct relationships we develop for our program participants. Those receiving the full slate of CRED’s services have direct access to a life coach, an employment coach, and an education coach to help participants go back to school and get—and keep—a job.
Head of Programs
How has the pandemic affected CRED’s work?
The pandemic has contributed to rising gun violence across the country in several ways, adding increased urgency to CRED’s work. Many people in the communities we serve lost jobs, causing financial instability. Many lost family members, adding emotional stress and unaddressed trauma. Others struggled to cope with quarantines and sheltering in place in often crowded apartments. These challenges also affected how police were able to engage with communities. COVID-19 added new work for our street outreach workers too. Now they are also health care ambassadors and distributors of food. That shift is a reflection of just how interconnected physical health is to reducing gun violence, especially amid a pandemic.
Director of Outreach
What are CRED’s long-term goals?
Our long-term goal is to get gun violence in Chicago on par with other big cities on a per-capita basis—in the short-term, we are working to bring the annual number of homicides in Chicago below 400, which has not happened since 1965. Our longer-term goal is to prevent the West and South sides of Chicago from suffering further disinvestment and depopulation. While these goals are ambitious, they are absolutely achievable if we have the will to invest in our communities and young men. They are not the problem; they are the solution. They help us to see the real root of gun violence: decades of destructive policies in communities of color. We are building the infrastructure every day to uproot that legacy, constantly learning and getting better.
Managing Partner, Emerson Collective & Chicago CRED
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