Crime was the biggest issue in the Chicago mayoral race this year. Business leaders largely supported Paul Vallas, whose solution was putting more cops on the street. His victorious opponent, Brandon Johnson, had a plan to attack the root causes of crime with things like summer jobs, mental health programs and economic development in distressed neighborhoods. The problem was how to pay for it and get buy-in from businesses. The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a powerful group, has stepped forward to fill that void, reports the Wall Street Journal. .The committee, which has backed major initiatives like modernization of O’Hare Airport but has largely steered clear of public safety, has proposed a plan with an ambitious goal of cutting homicides in the nation’s third-largest city in half within five years.
The plan would bring the city, nonprofits and the business community together to boost investment in neglected neighborhoods, create more jobs for people at risk of being involved in violence and expand violence-prevention efforts. “We are relatively late to this conversation, and we are showing up to see what our contribution can be,” said billionaire Jim Crown, a member of one of the city's richest families and chairman of the Civic Committee’s public safety task force. Crown said business leaders were nearly unanimous starting last summer that public safety is the city's biggest issue. In addition to bringing jobs and investment to hard-hit areas, the group pledged to improve the Chicago Police Department and expand violence-prevention efforts to reach 75% of people most at risk of committing a shooting or being shot, up from 20% today. In North Lawndale, one of the most violent neighborhoods, a wave of federal dollars inspired violence-prevention groups and nonprofits to expand efforts to reduce violence and reach at-risk people with programs that lead to solid jobs. In the first year, shootings and homicides in North Lawndale fell by 41%, one of the largest drops in the city. So far this year, homicides are up again, rising 25%, while shootings have increased 37%—results that could be skewed by the relatively small number of offenses before busy summer months.