Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Map Gallery: Chicago Violence

Helping Students Choose Books Over Guns

"If society focuses on these basic developmental needs, youth will mature responsibly, avoid many negative behaviors, and become more resilient in the face of inevitable setbacks." - The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

(Part 6 of T/MC's 2010 "Mapping Solutions" online gallery)

So far in this series of blogs, I've discussed how Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) maps (maps that were featured at a real live art gallery this past November) can be used by spiritual and political leaders to develop new quality tutor/mentor programs for at-risk youth.

Today I’d like to look at one of the reasons these leaders should.

T/MC occasionally features maps that piggy-back on the all the violence in the news. Teen violence is an epidemic that shocks us on what seems like a daily basis. Local commuter newspaper, The Red Eye, tracks the area's homicides and maps the locations of each crime.

We try to take it a step further, by adding layers of poverty, poorly-performing schools, and neighboring tutor/mentor resources to the picture, to try and visualize where mentoring programs could best help steer the next generation of kids toward academic and vocational success, versus futures on the streets and in the jails (which by the way, ultimately costs taxpayers like us a lot of money, regardless of whether you care that kids are killing kids).

Over the years many people have kindly pointed out for me that "poverty is not necessarily an indicator of crime." I would agree of course. There are many poor who are not criminals, and there are plenty of wealthy criminals. This is common sense.

However, I point to findings by contemporary sociology and criminal justice academics like Melissa Deller, who clarifies that “factors often associated with poverty could affect a community’s crime rate more than simple income levels.” Deller tells us that these factors include “housing values and conditions” and “chronic unemployment" - which are clearly tied to poverty. She adds “education level” to the mix, which validates our use of low-performing schools in our maps. Finally, she considers “broken homes” a factor in predicting a community’s risk for crime, and it stands to reason that children from these broken families might find positive role models to fill the void at nearby mentoring programs, if they exist.

But how successful can mentoring really be in addressing our crime and violence problems? When clicking on the "Chicago Violence" map above, and taking a closer look at the crime scenes in relation to poverty, low-performing schools, and existing known tutor/mentor programs, consider the empirical evidence from a 1997 study of well-known mentoring program Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BB/BS), conducted by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV).

The study looked at how youth that were enrolled in BB/BS fared versus a control group of students who were on the program's waiting list, over an 18 month period. In other words, all student in the study - including the control group - had the desire and motivation to be in a mentoring program. This is important. Very often, skeptics suggest that students in mentor programs do better than their peers because they already have the desire to seek out help. This study compares kids who want to be in a program, versus kids who also want to be in a program. Click here to learn more about the research method and sample.

“The researchers considered six broad areas that mentoring might affect: antisocial activities, academic performance, attitudes and behaviors, relationships with family, relationships with friends, self-concept, and social and cultural enrichment.”

The results showed that those in the program were 36.7% less likely to skip classes and showed a 3% improvement in grades overall, versus the control group.

Regarding crime and violence more directly, the research showed that those in the group were 46% less likely to use drugs, 27% less likely to use alcohol, and 32% less likely to hit someone when in a mentor-mentee relationship at BB/BS.

Moreover, “the quality of their relationships with their parents was better for mentored youth than for controls at the end of the study period, primarily due to a higher level of trust between parent and child,” and likewise, they “had improved relationships with their peers.”

The study is careful to point out that not all programs are equally effective, and suggests "prerequisites" for “effective mentoring programs.” Take a look at what Public/Private Ventures cites as prerequisites to building quality mentor programs that are effective in fighting crime, and then compare them to the building and leadership strategies at Tutor/Mentor Exchange.

Then urge your spiritual and political leaders to do the same, contacting us for maps that will help them locate areas of need, and strategies that they can use to build new quality programs that support your community’s safety and well-being.

And if you feel T/MC mapping technologies are important...


We at Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) have spent the past several years using maps to identify and analyze areas of our city where support for at-risk youth needs to grow, in order to make our students brighter, our workforce stronger, and our streets safer.

We operate on a non-profit budget and rely on donations and charity to continue our work, using state-of-the-art GIS technologies in support of our community-based mission.

Please consider a small tax-deductible donation to this important charity this holiday season.

1 comment:

Bradley Troast said...

Thank you for pointing out this BBBS study. Reading now...