Chicago Youth Gun Violence Initiative

As members of the Chicago community we are deeply saddened by each account of another young person in Chicago gunned down. And like every other Chicagoan we want to see an end to this. Despite the enormous toll gun violence takes on young people in Chicago, and across the United States, the evidence about what works to reduce youth gun violence is extremely limited. The University of Chicago Crime Lab's mission is to work with community partners in Chicago and around the country, to learn more about what works, for whom, and why, to begin making progress in reducing the problem of crime and violence. We believe that successful innovation requires doing a better job of learning from experience.

Our report, Gun Violence Among School Age Youth in Chicago, provides an overview of some Crime Lab's efforts to better understand the youth who are involved as victims and offenders in gun violence in Chicago, and what types of intervention strategies might be helpful in addressing this problem. This report prompted and helped to form a large-scale project currently underway, the Chicago Youth Gun Violence Initiative.

The first phase of this initiative – the Design Competition – involved solicitation of letters of interest from city agencies, non-profit and faith based organizations, and private sector firms with promising ideas about pilot programs to reduce youth gun violence and promote positive youth outcomes. The goal of the Design Competition was to select a winning project that, if funds were secured could be implemented and rigorously evaluated akin to a clinical trial in medicine, another area where lives are at stake. We were fortunate to receive more than 30 letters of interest.

The winning entry, Becoming A Man (B.A.M.©)—Sports Edition has been implemented and is currently being rigorously evaluated, thanks to the generous $1 million in contributions provided by local foundations, corporations and the federal government. The B.A.M.© Sports Edition program was provided to several hundred adolescent boys over the course of the 2009/2010 academic year at 14 Chicago Public Schools.