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Harold Pollack on youth violence

This week, Need to Know traveled to Chicago to examine the epidemic of gun violence there. To further understand what’s causing the bloodshed, Jon Meacham sat down with Professor Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago.  Pollack is the co-director of the university’s crime lab, which tests and evaluates pilot programs for reducing crime and violence.

According to a recent crime lab study, which Pollack coauthored, no Chicago youth is entirely safe from this problem today. And estimates indicate that one out of every five murdered Chicago school-aged youths was an innocent bystander.



  • Gail Pogal

    Professor Pollack’s comments about the financial crisis limiting state and local governments’ ability to address the root causes of violence (poverty, unemployment, etc.) highlights a sad truth. We need to hear more discussion of ideas such as the common sense toolkit to minimize violence through partnership with the schools and the teaching of alternative behaviors to children and youth.

    The Ceasefire program profiled before Pollack’s interview appears to be quite effective. Kudos to the “violence interrupters” in the streets and at the Chicago Crime Lab.

  • Miles Sheperd, Author

    Hello out there,
    Just watched your show on gang violence in the suburb of Chicago and would like to share my view on your report.
    Your show is not unlike any other, in your reporting style, in that you find surface ugliness and focus on the players and tell us a story (A 60 Minutes’ philosophy) without adequately addressing the “root cause” of the problem…entertaining maybe, but I “need to know” more!
    Dancing around on the surface of the problems in the world does not make them go away without understanding some of the cornerstone principles that are severely lacking in the minds of many people dealing with such problems, especially evident in the inner city areas of our nation that you are reporting on.
    Your lack of journalistic imagination in order to gain new perspective and interpetation does not contribue to the solution to many of the worlds problems. Reporting on the surface ugliness only contributes to the unhappy endings to many of the victims in this story and does nothing to solving the core issue to the problem.
    It is my shared philosophy that no human being is born into this world and destin to violence, killing and other useless ugly tragedies (enough already). Yet in these tough times, that many of are experiencing, we let these tragedies continue to manifest themselves and multiply as if there was some useful value there, there is not. This impacts us all negatively and not just the players on your show. It does not have to be this way and this show of ugliness must not go on!
    There does exist, however, and thankfully a positive underlying current in all human experience. A fundamental cornerstone that lives in each and everyone of us and when understood and properly utilized, gracefully contributes long lasting, useful and positively expansive meaning to all life!
    What I am talking about here is our collective capacity to “cultivate love”. This component is evident in our very beginning and will define for us, multiple happy endings throughout our lifetime.
    Cultivate defined: function verb; to improve by labor or care; to further encourage; make friends with.
    Love defined: function noun; affection based on benevolence, (disposed to doing good) admiration or common interests; maternal love for a child; unselfish concern for the good of another.

    “Cultivating love”… it is the most important cornerstone that is missing for many of us struggling to find answers when facing difficult situations.
    This subject and many other positively expansive concepts can be found by reading a book recently published titled “The Human Experience Refined & Enriched”.


    Miles Sheperd, Author

  • S.Brown

    I was reared in the inner city by two parents. I am no stranger to the issues presented in this program.
    It was encouraging to see the neighborhood youth violence program “Ceasefire” at work. However, I am sorely disappointed in the report analysis since you did not address the root cause. Residents having children in this environment is the root cause. Instead of spending most time and money on current tactical issues such as youth violence, organizations should focus on educating residents on the benefits of delaying childbirth until they can provide a good education, a safe home and neighborhood, and financial security for their children. An expert on your program mentioned that youth violence programs have existed for decades. What if more child rearing (and life choice) education was practiced 20-30 years ago? What would the inner city look like today if the birthrates were in line with middle class birth rates for single parent families, about 3 times less?
    Child rearing is extremely difficult. I admire my friends who are fantastic single parents. However, they would agree with me, and statistics support, that the financial and moral stability of two parents that planned their family is generally better than single parent family, especially an unplanned family. I was married in my 40s. I came dangerously close to not having children at all, but I would not concede this personal fundamental principle.
    Generally, I am weary of media reports about “inner city” angst without addressing this core problem. Life is about choices. Since you purport yourselves as being open-minded, open your mind to all the choices, possibilities, and responsibilities of the people at issue, and report the whole picture to your viewing audience. I expect much more from a news organization on PBS.

  • Robert

    Is there NO white violence? I’ve learned over the years that the picture has been skewed with regards to the public face of this sort of violence. Where (and they do exist) are the poor under-served white people who are exactly the same as the people in this Chicago neighborhood?

  • Thomas Famigletti

    What Mr. Pollack, does not address is the need for a respect for education and the importance of education in breacking the cicle of violence in these poor communities.
    The question is how do you do this?

  • Floyd Knight

    As U of Chicago alumni, I agree with S. Brown who mentioned the main correlation for youth violence, poverty, and unemployment. Gail Pogail comments about the latter two does not get to the root. Two other Professors at the U of Chicago, Linda Waite and Don Browning (recently deceased) have already given us the scientific data to support S. Brown’s statement: children being raised by and living in the same home with their biological moms and dads. Those children have better odds at staying out of poverty and the criminal justice system. Children who do not live with and are not raised by both their biological moms and dads are those at greater risk for violence (both as perpetrators and victims), living in poverty, and dropping out of school. Liberal often dismiss the scientific data and obvious solution for class reasons: the poor and uneducated from all races and ethnicity groups will not be able to change the social-familial environments in which they live, i.e., they will continue to perpetuate single head of household families! The ideal family is only possible for the educated and middle-class and upper-class families from all races and ethnicities. This liberal fatalism and determinism is why they and Gail look at secondary and tertiary solutions because they have given up on the foundational fixes. For references, see Linda Waite’s THE CASE FOR MARRIAGE and Don Browning’s MARRIAGE AND MODERNIZATION and EQUALITY AND THE FAMILY.

  • Steve Sewall

    Depressing. This is such nickle and dime stuff. How is teaching kids how to hold on the $60 jackets their moms buy them going to help Chicago address and solve the gang/drug problem that underlies youth violence in Chicago? And how will the Chicago schools “manning up” to gang/drug violence going to help solve this gang/drug problem that has crippled school reform and, as Mayor Daley said in 1992, “cost Chicago two generations of young people.” Why is Pollock not calling on Chicago itself to address this problem? This interview in effect nullifies the root problem that underlies the youth violence, gun violence and street violence that Harold Pollack decries.