In a report released today, the Cook County Gun Violence Task Force (GVTF), co-led by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, revealed its findings and recommendations, after more than 10 months of work. The GVTF was convened to examine the violence crisis plaguing Chicago and Cook County and evaluate possible prescriptive, evidence-based policies, programs and practices as potential solutions to combat the growing gun violence epidemic.
“We started this with the goal of aiming small, not relying on an ineffective legislature to pass sweeping laws, but instead focusing on evidence-based strategies that we could actually implement to try and curb the gun violence that plagues our streets,” Dart said. “In a measure of initial success, we’ve already begun implementing a number of the recommendations within the report.”
Commissioner Boykin added that the report’s release comes at a critical moment in the city of Chicago.
“When we began this process a year ago, we did not know how horrific gun violence in Chicago would be in 2016,” Boykin said. “With more than 4,000 people shot so far this year, the recommendations contained in this report must be implemented swiftly to prevent further tragedy in 2017 and beyond.”
The findings and subsequent recommendations by the GVTF are focused on three primary areas of reform, including law enforcement, data information and community.
In the report, the GVTF found that there is a palpable need for better and more strategic community policing, and recommended combining that with evidence-proven tactics such as hot-spot and focus-deterrence policing, where police identify highly specific areas of criminal activity and coordinate practices and resources around these areas.
The GVTF also called for better data-sharing practices between local agencies, the Illinois State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (ATF). The report stated that there is often very little, to no interagency communication when it comes to firearm tracking, thereby diminishing the ability to effectively understand and police the trafficking of firearms.
“As Sheriff Dart has mentioned, the Sheriff’s office and Superintendent Eddie Johnson have been working on rolling out joint efforts between the Chicago Police Department and Sheriff’s deputies, these efforts were informed by this report and this type of coordination is something we’ll look to add to in the future,” said Sheriff’s Police Deputy Chief Mike Anton, chairman of the GVTF.
The GVTF found that a substantial lack of quality data, related to crime-related violence, exists in any cohesive or analytical sense. The report cited a greater need for information, statistical reporting and research studies to help fully understand gun violence, its patterns and potential predictors.
The taskforce called for more crime-related violence research to be conducted through government-university partnerships and the creation of local- and state-based crime-related research centers.
“We need to be smarter on this issue and make sure we know all that we can about how to prevent and deter crime-related violence and the fact of the matter is that we just aren’t there right now,” Dart said. “My office has drafted legislation that would create a state-based Crime-related Violence Research Center within the University of Illinois – we’ll continue to push to get that passed next year.”
The legislation was approved by the House Higher Education Committee with unanimous bi-partisan support.
The GVTF found that traditional punishment-based policing strategies on their own do not create a conducive environment to reduce gun violence. The GVTF cited the evidence-based success of partnerships between law enforcement and organizations, such as Cure Violence, in calling for increased cooperation and partnership between local agencies and community organizations.
Additionally, the GVTF suggested that Law Enforcement work with community- and church-based anti-violence programs to reach at-risk youth, many of whom are spending more time on the streets than they are in school. The report cited research that found that youth who fail to attend school are at the highest risk of experiencing or participating in crime-related violence.
“Law enforcement knows where the violence is and community organizations know the people who live there – it’s a no-brainer that we work with organizations to reach at-risk youth before they’re on the streets pulling triggers,” Dart said.