CHICAGO — A new study looking at the impact of gun violence says young men living in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods faced more risk of dying from a shooting than soldiers at war.
Napoleon English, the outreach supervisor for Lawndale Christian Legal Center is dedicated to reducing violence in Lawndale and surrounding neighborhoods.
“We definitely keep our ears to the ground,” English said “If anybody needs some help or needs us to mediate, you know they come and talk to us.”
English, who has a passion to help resolve conflict, knows firsthand what a life of violence can reap. When he was 19, English says he was shot in the arm.
“The bullet came out, exited through my back,” English said.
The shooting was more than 35 years ago but violence continues to plague parts of Chicago.
Brandon Del Pozo is an assistant professor at Brown University.
“In terms of the neighborhood in Chicago with the most violence or the highest rate of violence, that’s Garfield Park,” Del Pozo said.
In a recent Journal of the American Medical Association study, Del Pozo and colleagues wanted to determine if some neighborhoods in Chicago were comparable to war zones.
“We found that around military age males, 18-29, that there are a few zip codes in Chicago that were not just almost as risky as war but were much more risky than fighting in Iraq, fighting in Afghanistan or even in a very heavily engaged combat brigade,” Del Pozo said.
The study compares the violence in some neighborhoods to a natural disaster that overwhelmingly impacts African American men.
“If we care about equity, we have to understand this is a huge inequity as well,” Del Pozo said.
The assistant professor hopes his research prompts leaders on all levels to take action, providing a multi-layer level of care and support resources for communities suffering the most.
Back in Lawndale, English says funds for more mental health support for anyone impacted by gun violence are much needed.
In the meantime, he said he will keep working with young people encouraging them away from a life in the streets.
“If you can redirect or help them redirect the way they think,” English says, “you might be on to something.”