ENGLEWOOD —The wards of Aldermen Roderick Sawyer (6th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Toni Foulkes (15th) and JoAnn Thompson (16th) all run through one of Chicago's most violent communities, and each has a take on what needs to be done to prevent young people from succumbing to violence.
The area has long been associated with violence and notched 29 murders in 2012. Nearly 130 people have been killed in the neighborhood since 2007. In 2012, nearly half the homicide victims were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Dowell said she sees violence as a growing epidemic with no cure in sight.
“Violence is a cancer destroying our youth and communities. We must find more productive ways to express our frustration and seek more understanding with each other," Dowell said. "The future of our communities depends on the choices we make today.”
Thompson said youth voices are silenced because rarely do adults ask them what they think is the problem with violence and what suggestions they have for reducing it.
"And as a result, their views, concerns and suggestions go unheard," Thompson added.
Young people need a way "to speak freely and creatively on issues that directly impact their lives. It is a wonderful listening tool," she said. "We need to know what our youth are thinking and how they internalize situations in their environment.”
Foulkes said employment and recreation programs are critical to getting young people off the streets.
"Give them more than just after-school programs and sports, which are good, but give them jobs too," Foulkes said. "The mayor announced increased funding for summer jobs and I think that's a great start. I have always worked with local business owners to get them to hire kids from the neighborhood, and it has proven to be quite successful."
And Sawyer, in a recent letter to constituents, offered several ways to curb violence, not just in Englewood, but across the city.
"Violence is a serious issue that has a lasting effect on our community. It’s not just the shock of a victim or the loss to their family, but the effect that a tragedy has on the fabric of a neighborhood," he said. "The community has a part to play. This is why I am invested in promoting our community groups, block clubs and CAPS meetings as a way for communities to take an active role in their safety."
Additionally, Sawyer suggested hiring more police officers, reforming gun laws, building a better relationship established between the community and Chicago police, and eliminating what he described as "youth poverty" plaguing many minority neighborhoods.
"The fact is that many of the largest problems come from children who are effectively orphans. They are living in squatter homes and are easier ... prey to charismatic older gang figures," Sawyer said in a statement.
"When we have more children in a stable and loving environment, we have fewer shooters on our streets. Some parents are overwhelmed and some are irresponsible, but the greater community should not have to accept violence because of personal failures. We must stabilize the young people before they get lost."
Another part of Englewood falls in the 20th Ward of Ald. Willie Cochran, who was unavailable for comment.