In 2006, there were 471 homicides in Chicago. The victims were people of all ages, from all walks of life. The following year, States Attorney Richard Divine established some crime victims’ services for the first time as part of the criminal justice system in Cook County. Though an important step forward, these services would commence only if, and when an arrest was made, and would therefore not reach the majority of families, whose losses are never prosecuted. (Less than 70% of cases in Chicago are prosecuted.) In 2007, most families continued to suffer unimaginable losses without any supportive services.
In the three years between 2007 and 2009, Chicago experienced over 1420 homicides. Chicago’s Citizens for Change was born in 2010, in direct response to the appalling loss of life and the paucity of crime victims’ services, and launched its Chicago Survivors Program.
What we have learned about the victims and their surviving families:
- More than two-thirds of victims are under 30 years old
- Nearly one-third of victims have no arrest record
- 80% of homicides result from gun violence
- In nearly one-third of cases, no motive can be determined
- Nearly 10% of cases involved domestic violence
- 75% of victims leave minor children and/or minor siblings
- Over 95% of victims are non-white
- 90% of victims are male
- Over 95% of survivors experience symptoms of PTSD
- For most families, the cost of their loved one’s funeral and burial is the greatest expense they will ever incur
- Common survivors’ experiences include: depression and complicated grief, poly-victimization, job loss, financial instability, social isolation, homelessness, youth at risk, chronic health issues, and premature death.
Chicago Survivors is the first organization to deliver systematic and comprehensive services in a major metropolitan area to all survivors of homicide. However, with accompaniment and timely intervention services, families can stabilize following homicide. With support and care over time, some survivors identify points of post-traumatic growth over time.
Moreover, families who are stabilized can be empowered to carry their experiences forward in contribution to change the levels of violence. That can happen through activism, art, music, theatre, policy, and legislation.
In the three years between 2007 and 2009, Chicago experienced over 1420 homicides