CHICAGO — Recent shootings in Hyde Park has led to additional police presence on and around the University of Chicago. While a path to a safer Chicago remains unclear, some say the direction the South Side area university has taken thus far is not the answer.
Outside Levi Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago, a small group with a big-picture message.
“The safest neighborhoods don’t have more policing, they have more resources,” said Hyde Park Maira Khwaja.
A rally last week on campus called attention to the violence surrounding the University of Chicago. The shooting death of recent graduate Dennis Zheng, during an afternoon robbery, highlighted the growing concern for safety.
On Monday, several students — brought together by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice — say while demonstrations are good, the solutions being offered—including stepped-up policing and surveillance — are not the best strategy.
“Hyde Park is already one of the most policed neighborhoods in Chicago,” Pai said. “Increasing policing and surveillance will not deter future gun violence because policing and surveillance do not address the root causes of violence such as decades of disinvestment, structural racism, poverty, trauma and lack of opportunity.”
Some students say last week’s rally and online discourse on the Facebook group UChicago Secrets have created deeper divisions along racial lines that the school, in their opinion, has not addressed.
“These discussions, centered on crime and violence, should never include anti-Black rhetoric,” said University of Chicago student Keegan Balentyne. “It’s rather really the silence that everyone has around those or people that really hurts me the most.”
The group believes those responsible for the killings, including the 18-year-old now charged in Zheng’s murder, should be punished. In addition, the group says resources need to be diverted from more policing and into other areas to stamp out the root causes of their crimes.
“Real public safety includes large scale investment in community-based violence prevention programs, wraparound services, trauma-informed care, investments in disinvested communities, affordable housing, good jobs, strong education, and so much more,” Pai said.
In a statement, the University of Chicago said, in part, that the school is “identifying opportunities to leverage its strengths in academic thought and practice, working in tandem with South Side communities, to address critical issues, including mental health, education, child welfare, social policy and economic opportunity.”