June 9, 2023

What’s Driving Summer Violence?

Crime Lab data clears up a common misconception about summer violence.

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Since the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, more than 150 people have been shot in what has become a grim annual marker of the start of the summer spike in gun violence. Addressing this crisis and saving lives as we head into the summer months requires something obvious: Targeting resources and interventions towards the people most likely to be involved in gun violence.

WHAT THE DATA SHOWS: A common misconception has clouded our understanding of summer violence, leading us to believe that kids on summer break from school are driving it. But the reality is that summer gun violence looks a lot like year-round gun violence; the vast majority of shootings take place outdoors and are driven by arguments between adult men. Last year in Chicago, men aged 20 and over accounted for 79.4% of summer gun violence victims (the 20-29 age range accounted for 37% of summer gun violence victimizations alone). Year-round, men aged 20 and over accounted for 79.8% of gun violence victims, and the rate hovers around the same for suspected perpetrators of shootings.

And for young people who do become involved in gun violence, over the last five years, more than 90% were not enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. They weren’t on summer break — they weren’t even in school to begin with.

WHAT IT MEANS: That doesn’t mean we should back away from programs that support young Chicagoans during the summer. But it does mean that if we want to reduce violence in the summer, and throughout the year, we need to focus our resources and interventions towards men aged 20-39 and youth who are disengaged from school entirely.

WHAT WE’RE DOING: At the Crime Lab, we’re leveraging this approach across our projects, including:

  • Building capacity of community violence intervention (CVI) professionals: The Crime Lab is launching the University of Chicago CVI Leadership Academy to help train the next generation of CVI leaders on organizational management and violence intervention strategies. The Academy is currently accepting applications through June 15th for its inaugural class.
  • Training police leaders from districts with the highest rates of violence: On May 22nd, the University of Chicago Policing Leadership Academy welcomed its first cohort of 24 rising police leaders for a six-month education program on data-driven management, violence reduction, and community trust. These leaders manage America’s highest-violence police districts, and collectively serve cities comprising over 20% of homicides in America.
  • Re-engaging students disconnected from school: Chicago Public Schools’ Back to Our Future program — for which the Crime Lab and Education Lab serve as a design and data partner — works with community organizations to support young people who have been disengaged from school for 18+ months and are therefore at higher risk of gun violence involvement.