Faculty Fireside Chat features SSA Professor and UChicago Crime Lab Co-Director Harold Pollack


By: Sarah Miller, Second-Year Student and Civic Journalist for Chicago Studies

On Monday, April 22, the Chicago Studies Program of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) hosted the spring quarter's first Faculty Fireside Chat featuring Harold Pollack, Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and the University of Chicago Crime Lab Co-Director.

Pollack's Fireside Chat, entitled "Reducing Gun Violence: What Works and What's Promising?" showcased the Crime Lab's 2009 study that examined strategies to improve social-cognitive skills in teenage boys in seven Chicago public schools. According to Pollack, the study was premised on the understanding that improving social-cognitive skills among young people could help to reduce youth gun violence.

In his discussion, Pollack explained that multiple issues contribute to the problem of youth gun violence, such as poverty, racism, inequality - the "failure of every social policy."

After extensive research of police records in Chicago, Pollack concluded that the majority of homicides caused by gunshots were perpetrated by young, impulsive men during altercations. He also found that most homicides were "gang-related" in that gangs illegally sell firearms to people.

During his talk, Pollack compared crime rates in the United States to those of 11 Western countries. While the United States has crime rates that are comparable or lower than other countries, Pollack showed that its homicide rate is strikingly high compared to that of its industrialized peers.

"There are way fewer dead bodies in those countries, but they have every other social problem we have," Pollack said.

Although Chicago is often hailed as the "murder capital" of the country, Pollack said that gun violence is on decline, pointing out that homicide levels in Chicago were half of what they were 20 years ago.

For more information about Pollack's Faculty Fireside Chat, the 2009 Crime Lab study, or the Chicago Studies Program, check out the links below:

Harold Pollack's Faculty Page
Chicago Studies Program
UChicago Crime Lab
This American Life Feature on Harper High School, mentioned in the Faculty Fireside Chat

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