February 13, 2015

Univ. crime lab takes on youth violence

The University of Chicago Crime Lab is soliciting innovative strategies to combat youth violence as part of a new competition. Winning entries will receive up to $1 million for implementation of their proposed programs. Submissions can come from any nonprofit organization or group of nonprofits whose work focuses on youth violence.

Youth violence is the second-largest cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This problem is especially pronounced in certain urban neighborhoods. The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) has consistently recorded around 290 to 330 student victims of shootings per year, according to statistics from the Chicago Community Trust and police records from The Huffington Post.

“The competition has the potential to discover a very promising intervention. One of the main aims of the design competition is to rigorously evaluate a promising idea, to work to build the body of social science evidence about what works, for whom, and why,” Amanda Norton, communications director for the Crime Lab, said. The entries should focus on youth ages 13 to 18 who live in communities with high levels of violence or on the parents of such youth.

This competition is a collaboration between the Crime Lab and Urban Education Institute, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and Get In Chicago. Winning organizations will work alongside researchers from the Crime and Urban Education Labs to implement their proposals. The competition timeline requires submission of a statement of interest by March 2. One or more winners will be notified later that month and then will submit a full project proposal.

Previous Crime Lab competitions have produced successful policy programs. The much-lauded Becoming A Man program was the winner of a competition held by the Crime Lab in 2008. It involved an unprecedented randomized controlled trial of nearly 2,500 adolescent boys in 18 schools in Chicago. Results for that academic year saw a 44 percent reduction in violent-crime arrests among participants during the program year. The program was part of the motivation behind President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative that launched in 2014, encouraging communities to develop cradle-to-college strategies for helping children prepare for educational opportunities.

“Building evidence about what works to prevent youth violence and build human capital among at-risk youth could have a significant impact on youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods not only in Chicago, but also in other cities throughout the country,” Norton said.