Crime Lab to study three programs in effort to reduce youth violence in Chicago

In an effort to find effective ways to reduce youth violence in Chicago, the University of Chicago Crime Lab will evaluate three promising programs, selected from more than 200 ideas submitted during its recent design competition.

The recipients of the funding, which will receive scientific evaluation from Crime Lab, are Children’s Home + Aid, a leading child and family services agency in Illinois; the David Lynch Foundation, an organization that teaches meditation to children and adults to heal traumatic stress in at-risk populations; and Sweet Water Foundation, a group that provides hands-on learning of urban agriculture practices for community development.


Earlier this year, the Crime Lab announced the design competition, requesting proposals from organizations focusing on youth and/or their parents who live in communities with high levels of violence. The proposals described how particular programs could work to improve the lives of young people at risk of violence or victimization.

"Working with these three grantees will give us an opportunity not only to study these three promising programs, but also to continue our work to generate evidence about the effects of different approaches to improving the lives of our city’s most vulnerable youth,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of Crime Lab.

More than $1 million in support from Get IN Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation will fund the programs and Crime Lab’s research.

Children’s Home + Aid will receive a $1 million grant to support a new program that combines the agency’s trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy with services from Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. These advocates serve youth before and after school and on weekends, supporting at-risk youth at times when they are most likely to get into trouble. The collaborative new program will serve 220 youth, ages 13 to 18, in the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods. The funders anticipate the program and study could continue for a second year, if key benchmarks are met.

“We are excited about this partnership with Youth Advocate Programs and the Crime Lab, and about the opportunity to work on reducing gang activity and violence in the lives of Chicago’s highest-risk youth,” said Nancy Ronquillo, president and CEO of Children’s Home + Aid. “Our goal is that hundreds of boys and girls at high risk for gun violence and arrest will get the support they need to stay in school, employed and out of jail.”

In addition, two pilot projects will receive grants of $300,000 each. The David Lynch Quiet Time program will serve youth in high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago, using meditation as a tool to decrease stress and the effects of trauma, with the goal of reducing criminal and violent behavior.

The other pilot project will allow the Sweet Water Foundation Apprenticeship and Outreach Program to expand into the Englewood, North Lawndale, Woodlawn or Roseland neighborhoods. This program will support 50 youth with education and career training in urban agriculture and aquaponics.

The Crime Lab’s collaborative, evidence-based research since its founding in 2008 laid the foundation for the University’s new Urban Labs, and this design competition is the first of two Urban Labs is spearheading this year.

“The announcement of these three grantees, whose projects present potentially significant ways to reach some of our city’s most at-risk young people, is an important step in the Urban Labs’ work,” said Timothy Knowles, Pritzker Director of Urban Labs and chairman of the Urban Education Institute. “We are eager to see these programs begin, and to start gathering evidence that will demonstrate what works.”

This fall Urban Labs will announce the results of its first innovation challenge, which aims to reduce poverty and improve health, energy use and the environment across Chicago.