Building Safe Communities Through Investing in Our People

Rossana speaking at the 33rd Ward Aldermanic Forum (Feb. 7th, 2019)

When I first came to Chicago, I worked with the Albany Park Theater Project (APTP). They have an incredible program that has wraparound services. And those kids are so healthy and so happy. 80 percent of the alumni at APTP graduate college by the age of 25.

Then I went and worked in Humboldt Park at an alternative school. And my kids in Humboldt Park, a lot of them were gang-affiliated. They were in gangs because they didn’t get early intervention, they were in gangs because they never got special education services. Some of them were sixteen and they couldn’t read or write—they couldn’t get jobs.

My classroom was a revolving door of kids going in and out of prison, and it was heartbreaking to see. I saw that most of the kids in gangs would be doing something else if they could. So I know that the approach to safety that is going to actually work is a holistic approach.

The Chicago Police Department is stretched. We are already giving the police in this city 40 percent of our budget. If we are giving the police 40 percent of our budget and we still don’t feel safe, then that means that we need to be doing something different.

We need to start thinking about how we use those resources so that we actually feel safe. And that means increasing the presence of mental health services, social workers, and nurses. We also really need more after school programing.

We should also be looking at urban planning as part of solving the problem. In densely populated places that have a lot of cultural activity, there’s a lot less violence.

There are many different approaches we can take that are not necessarily bringing more police into our communities.