Chicago violence can be solved by treating it as health problem, advocates say


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — How do you make a dent in Chicago’s shooting epidemic? Two advocates recommend treating it like a public health problem.

Over the weekend of Sept. 9-11, at least 60 victims were shot in Chicago alone. High-profile incidents of children being killed after being caught in the middle of shootings have raised attention on how widespread the issue has become.

“What we’re looking at is a public health disaster. And we need to treat it as such.”

Aisha Butler, Executive Director of R.A.G.E

“I’ve mentioned this in several violence prevention meetings, that we need to treat this, like FEMA, we need everyone out on the streets on these blocks that we know, these large gatherings and where people are at being targeted,” said Aisha Butler, executive director of R.A.G.E., which is trying to decrease the violence on Chicago’s streets.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new strategy is to sue gangs in civil court to seize their assets. The city believes taking a gang’s financial assets will make it easier to curtail its activities.

Butler says not only does she think this wouldn’t work, it’s the wrong strategy.

“And when I heard it, I thought about suing whoever suggested this, this new option.”

Aisha Butler, Executive Director of R.A.G.E

Butler instead wants the city to literally light up with street lights the streets and corner of Chicago known for having issues with violence.

“Especially in a community like Englewood. where we’re from, sometimes the environment actually perpetuates this type of behavior. If it’s dark, if it’s abandoned, if nothing is happening, if the streets are not paid, these are all things that we could be investing our money in instead of civil suits against gangbangers,” Butler said.

A University of Chicago study shows that the strategy might help reduce so-called “index crimes” of murder, robbery and assault by 36%.

It’s an approach, though, that former gang member Jermaine Rhodes says misses the larger point.

Of course, people get shot in broad daylight all the time. People get shot on interstate 290, it’s not like that will stop people from killing each other. We got to go deeper than that way deep.

Jermaine Rhodes

He agrees, though, that the problem is a public health crisis and needs full resources.

“If we all understand how syphilis work, right? Syphilis is a STD that can be treated with a penicillin if you catch it early. But if syphilis go untreated, then it will eat up the nerves and then it up in brain. Right now, Black people in Chicago, got syphilis and it ate up our nerves…We don’t know that we’re messed up. So we keep doing the same things over and over and over. We don’t know that we cause harm to ourself,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes advocates instead for the same approach that got him out of his gang. He prefers providing positive role models and outreach about the life possible outside gangs.

“The fact that he never gave up on me, the fact that he was a role model, the fact that I had somebody that I can disappoint, I have somebody that I can let down for the first time in my life.”

Jermaine Rhodes

Both Rhodes and Butler agree that it is possible to curtail violence in the city by investing in ordinary people and those most at risk.

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