Giving Compass' Take:

• Brian Freskos shares how groups in Chicago are working together to reduce the homicide rate to under 400 per year. 

• How can funders join the effort effectively? Do cities in your state need similar programs? 

• Learn how Kentucky is using drones to address gun violence


In a conference room on the Far South Side of Chicago, Jalon Arthur, an employee of a local nonprofit violence reduction program, unfurled a giant city map across a table. He pointed at patches of orange, yellow, purple, and pink stretched across neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

Each color signified the coverage area of a street outreach organization. Their workers mediate disputes before they snowball into cycles of tit-for-tat shootings; they also steer high-risk individuals into social services designed to keep them away from violence. Until recently, Arthur said, workers from different organizations rarely collaborated, even if they shared common terrain. “Chicago has a long history of working in silos — on every level,” said Arthur, the director of strategic priorities for Creating Real Economic Destiny, or CRED. “That lack of coordination between the groups made the whole strategy fractured.”

But now, the walls have broken down, with outreach workers banded together in what Arthur and many others have portrayed as part of a monumental shift in Chicago’s burgeoning gun violence prevention landscape. Three years after a spike in homicides focused international attention on the city, a wide-ranging and multi-layered set of initiatives has united around an ambitious goal: Ending a year in Chicago with fewer than 400 homicides, a level not achieved since 1965. Organizers of the effort have branded it “<399.”

To get there, CRED and other private donors have poured millions of dollars into expanding outreach, community patrols, and neighborhood events. Nonprofits are coordinating with city agencies to pick up litter and replace broken street lights. Case managers and others strive to line individuals up with support and keep them on the right path.

Meanwhile, at City Hall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently deputized a senior director at CRED to head a newly created Office of Public Safety, which is expected to help orchestrate an array of public and private anti-violence resources. Last month, she unveiled a $1.4 million summer mentoring program for at-risk teens, framing gun violence in the public-health terms that neighborhood organizations have long advocated.

Read the full article about reducing the homicide rate by Brian Freskos at The Trace.