CPS $30 Million Plan: Are They Preventing or Altering Victimization?

In understanding victimization and the typical institutional response to these incidents one must look closely at whether the response is addressing root causes for violence or altering who the victim will be.  A clear example of this is the Chicago Police practice of placing Police Observation Devices (POD) cameras at intersections and street corners where large numbers of victimizations have occurred.  The difference between addressing root cause and altering whom the victim of crimes are is significant.

CPD Blue Camera

Street cops as well as academics studying what is called the displacement of crime will tell you that the POD cameras really do not prevent crime from taking place.  All they really do is displace the crime to areas that are out of reach of the cameras.  What this means for people interested in understating victimization is that the net effect of the cameras is that they alter who is victimized rather than preventing a victimization from taking place.  When politicians and authorities within the criminal justice system tout the benefits of the cameras they hardly ever mention the displacement affect.

A hypothetical example: An individual needs money and is willing to hold-up a fast food restaurant to get it and typically would victimize the closest one to a train line.  The nearest restaurant that is also adjacent to a train line has a camera in front on the corner.  A second restaurant that also is adjacent to a train line does not have a camera in front of it.  Which one is going to get robbed?

Now, if in answering this question you answered neither that would equate to prevention.  If your answer is the one without the camera, that is not prevention but rather displacement.  Displacement is not really addressing issues of victimization buy rather using propaganda to make affected communities feel like officials are doing everything they can to address the issue.

I bring this up this week because of the new plan that was unveiled by Chicago Public School (CPS) CEO Ron Huberman.  Under his plan, CPS would spend $30 million dollars to saturate 1200 at risk children with a series of significant interventions to prevent them from being a victim of gun violence.  You can read about the proposed interventions here.  I question what sense it makes to focus on the issue of addressing potential victims to help assure they are not victimized rather than intervening in the lives of possible perpetrators of violence to help assure that he/she do not create a victim, regardless of whether that victim is a CPS student or not.

Then I came to the realization that because of the hysterical nature of the discourse on crime and violence in Chicago Huberman, and most political figures, are barred from discussing issues involving spending public money trying to prevent potential perpetrators from creating victims.  The media as well as a large swath of the public would rather just lock up potential perpetrators rather than try to prevent them from committing crime.  Maybe in reality Huberman is doing just that but telling the public he is addressing potential victims rather than potential perpetrators?

From a numbers perspective the plan details an expenditure of approximately $25,000 per each of the 1200 students for a total of $30 million.  From the human cost this seems very little to spend to prevent our youth from becoming victims of gun violence.  If Huberman is targeting potential perpetrators, the savings in the long run will greatly out weigh initial investment.

Some math to consider:

  • Currently it costs approximately $23,000 per year to incarcerate an individual in the Illinois Department of Corrections.  For every year of incarceration in an adult facility in Illinois that is prevented from this initial investment of $25,000, the State of Illinois saves approximately $23,000.
  • It costs approximately $75,000 per year to incarcerate a youth in Cook County.  For every year of incarceration in the Cook County Juvenile Facility that is prevented from this initial investment of $25,000, Cook County would save approximately $75,000.

The financial savings alone is astounding!   Why can’t we ever get past the tough on crime rhetoric?

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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