As we approached downtown, one guy surveyed the urban landscape and was reminded of what he saw on the "6 o'clock news." He turned to his pal (with an enthusiasm typically reserved for sharing really great gossip), "Did you hear about that shooting in Chicago this morning?!"
(This map shows the locations of 10 shootings that occurred in three separate high-poverty neighborhoods in the 24 hours between April 1st and 2nd, 2010. The darker shades of red and blue show the highest poverty rates. The green stars show known mixes tutor/mentor programs, in the Tutor/Mentor Connection's database.)
The other man hadn't heard the news, so his buddy continued to fill him with his recollection of the details, "Yeah... someone got shot on 60th and then some more people got shot while the police were there!"
I bit my lip. I knew the story and I knew the neighborhood. And I just want so badly to one day hear strangers discussing a shooting in Chicago within a framework of "my god that's horrible," or even better, "what can we do to help make sure no one else gets killed?"
Should I have intervened at this point, and tried to instigate a discussion about our work here at Tutor/Mentor Connections (T/MC) ... about our strategies and tools, which help build more and better mentor programs for at-risk youth, in hopes that young kids in poor neighborhoods get the decision-making and academic skills needed to sidestep the violence of gangs (whose members are eager to provide alternative forms of "mentorship" to new recruits)?
Should I have noted the research we continuously cite that lays out how the cost of poverty and the escalating crime will continue to affect taxpayers, residents, and tourists everywhere (including the places these guys were coming from), if we don't do something together as a whole?
Maybe I should have. If for no other reason than to make sure they had the numbers right. 6 shot in Englewood near 66th and Ashland. 1 shot near 64th and Ashland, in a separate shooting two blocks away. 1 shot in Bronzeville just to the northeast, in a drive-by. And 2 more shot within a stones throw of the Oak Park Green Line in the Austin area on the West Side.
Ten shootings in the first 24 hours of "nice weather" (quoting the "meteorologist" I saw on the news this morning myself).
But erring on the side of not being counterproductive and freaking out a couple of vacationing strangers, who were otherwise minding their business, I just headed off to work to make that map above. With a hole in my lip.
I mean, I really can't blame people for looking at these crimes as some sort of twisted form of entertainment. With the way most news outlets deliver the information... flashing graphics and dramatic theme music... some hyped-up on-the-scene reporter in front of a parade of police cars, providing almost no detail. It's all presented like a circus.
To be fair, sometimes print publications like The Red Eye actually do dedicate resources to details, tracking and mapping the crimes, like we do at TMC.
However, no one I know maps the crime data in relation to indicators of "at-risk" behavior, like poverty and poorly-performing schools... potential predictors of anger, gangs, and future violence.
It also seems that few news sources direct concerned residents to groups and community assets near the crime... places that are specifically working to make sure kids who see this violence from their front window today become future leaders, instead of new tax-payer burdens on our economy later.
T/MC does this with our maps and strategies.
This distinction is why I hope you click on the map above to get a general sense of where the ten shootings occurred over the past 24 hours, in relation to poverty and known mentor programs. And then share our map technologies with people in your network.
By the way, while you're looking at the map, note there are virtually no mentor programs near the shootings. Navigate my blog, or go to Dan Bassill's blog (a 30-year expert on mentoring) to learn more about why this is a problem.
Then go to Tutor/Mentor Exchange to see reports, strategies, and other links to information you can use to make sense of this and lead others in your network on behalf of mentoring kids.
That last part is vital. Spend a few minutes thinking of people in your network who might want to get involved. We at T/MC in particular, desperately need talent and money to take our not-for-profit technologies to new levels of usefulness in the battle against poverty and crime.
Use the form below to jar your memory and shake out those in your network who might want to help. Email me or Dan with questions or leads.
And be safe this weekend! It's supposed to remain unseasonably "nice."