Three years after a spike in homicides focused international attention on Chicago, a wide-ranging 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,” the Trace reports. To get there, a group called Creating Real Economic Destiny (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. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has deputized a senior director at CRED to head a new 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 public-health terms that neighborhood organizations have advocated.
Veterans of Chicago’s fight against gun violence call the developments unprecedented. After years of anti-crime strategies tilted toward tougher policing, they’re hopeful that the city may have entered a watershed moment. “All of this is a lot different from what we’ve seen in the past,” said Charlie Ransford of Cure Violence. “I think it’s clear we’ve turned a corner here.” The organizers of the <399 campaign say they can’t hit their goal if the city and state government do not ramp up public spending to bring outreach into neighborhoods that lack it. Shootings are down compared to 2018, but Chicago has still tallied more than 250 homicides, including at least six over the extended Fourth of July weekend. This winter, CRED joined with more than 50 other groups to launch the Violence Ends Starting Today campaign — or inVEST — calling on the city, state, and federal governments to set aside $150 million in public funding, enough to service 10,000 people annually.