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City seeks solutions on black violence

August 8, 2018

KANKAKEE — From 2011 through 2017, there were 33 homicide victims within Kankakee’s city limits. Of those 33, the vast majority, 30, were boys or men. In addition, 12 of those murder victims were age 24 or younger.

But one of the most alarming facts regarding these numbers is the vast majority — 26 — were black.

Considering blacks represented 39 percent of the overall city population and just less than 80 percent of the murder victims, a solution needs to be found. Additionally, blacks are the victims of 86 percent of all the city’s gun violence during this period.

To illustrate that point, data shows whites also make up 39 percent of the city’s population, but only five percent of gun violence crimes from 2011-17.

A crowd of about 50 heard these statistics at the first communitywide forum Tuesday regarding black murders and the role a national organization called Cities United will play in trying to help the city change these numbers.

These are numbers no one can or should overlook. Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong is seeking to do something about black murders.

But, the mayor said, public safety might not be the way the community needs to look at the issue.

Along with leadership from Cities United, the city administration and interested residents will be working to develop strategies to help guide young blacks away from violence.

It will be a multifaceted solution and one that likely will take years to address. It will be a solution that will require far more than just hiring additional police officers as some might suggest.

According to data compiled by Kankakeean Deb Baron, young blacks are more likely to become victims if they live in the 1st and 2nd wards, located on the city’s north and east sides. According to her research, 20 of the 33 murder victims between 2011-17 were 1st and 2nd ward residents.

The project only has just begun. Wells-Armstrong and Cities United will be holding additional workshops and meetings regarding black gun violence within these two wards, but no dates have been set.

“We are losing way to may young men to gun violence,” said Anthony Smith, Cities United executive director. “We want safe, healthy and hopeful neighborhoods. How do we work collectively to create better outcomes? ... We want something different for our kids.”

Former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (2014-18), who serves as a senior fellow, said Kankakee is not unlike many communities across the country. She noted Minneapolis had the same issue when she was mayor. She worked to see those black murders drop.

“The whole community is diminished if part of the community is suffering. We will all prosper if every is doing well,” she said. “This is a public health problem, not just a public safety problem.”

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