Margot Pritzker's Here's an Idea
Updated: September 15, 2012 1:15AM
T eamwork: It kept the NATO Summit a safe event, why wouldn’t it keep our streets safe?
Here are some of the things we learned: An increased police presence worked. A savvy use of technology worked. Communication between law enforcement and health and safety groups worked. Communication to citizens well before and during the event worked.
We worked together and there was no violence and minimal arrests. We locked out the violence from a defined area and protected a community of people at the event, and the Chicago residents in and out of the area.
Meanwhile, outside of the summit area — but at the same time as the summit on the south and west side of Chicago — people were dying from gang and gun violence. Our children are being killed week after week after week.
Here’s an idea: Let’s take the lessons learned from the NATO Summit and use them throughout the city. The new strategy laid out by Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Emanuel was music to the ears. Using partnerships like CeaseFire (a violence-prevention group) made the music louder.
More police presence in the right place at the right time (all the time!). A no-brainer.
But our police officers and public servants can’t make our communities safer alone. What about young people? What if every high school student had to do five hours of real service a week, making blocks safer, cleaner, coaching sports teams, tutoring kids who need it. How about that? Real service, well organized. Required.
Blue collection boxes in every library, every school (private & public) community houses, gyms, churches, mosques, synagogues and any other place of gathering. We will collect at least a penny from every citizen, including children. Let’s use the money toward equipping community centers, security cameras, neighborhood watches. It won’t be enough, but it will help our broken city and show we are serious.
Let’s keep our community houses, gyms, libraries and museums open longer as cool places to exercise, read and learn during the long, hot summer.
Let’s see if we can get some of the Federal Race to the Top money for creative safe programs of summer learning.
I don’t know how much we spent at the NATO Summit per member, but I am darn sure our children are worth as much — with at least as much long-term benefit!
Give the streets back to our kids, where the only loud sounds should be the crack of baseball bats in a street game, the shriek of kids running through sprinklers and the voices of families sitting out with their neighbors.
Let’s help the mayor and the police superintendent. Let’s help ourselves and take back our streets. School is out for the summer, so there are many more children on the streets. Let’s make them safe.
Margot Pritzker donated her fee for writing this column to the University of Chicago Charter Schools, where she serves as chairman of the governing board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.