Education Secretary Meets With Chicago Gang Leaders: They Just Need Jobs

By Penny Starr | May 13, 2015 | 5:42pm EDT
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at the National Summit on Youth Violence Prevention on May 12, 2015 in Crystal City, Va. ( Starr)

( – Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on Tuesday that he has met with gang leaders in his hometown of Chicago and they’ve told him that it’s a lack of jobs that keeps them on the streets.

“We have to have jobs for young people,” Duncan said at the National Summit on Youth Violence Prevention in Crystal City, Va. “I probably shouldn’t say this in a room like this, but occasionally when I go home I’ll sit down with some of the gang leaders – back home in Chicago.”

He said he asked them what was the “biggest impediment” to getting gangs to stop their illicit activities.

“It’s jobs,” Duncan told the federal government-sponsored event. “So we need to think about what we do at scale to create those kind of opportunities for young people who just have to make some money, want to do it in a positive way, but in too many places they don’t exist.”

A May 2013 CBS report described Chicago as the gang capital of the United States, citing a 2012 Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) audit that found there were around 600 gangs operating in the city with membership totaling 70,000.

“As the number of gangs in the city increase, it's difficult for gangs to control large areas. Instead, gangs cling to streets,” the article stated. “Territory disputes mean increased rivalry and as a result, more shootings.”

The report also referred to a 2011 Chicago Police analysis showing that a quarter of the 433 homicides that year were gang related.

The CCC generally defines a gang as “a group of individuals with regular meeting patterns, have recognizable geographical territory (typically identified by graffiti), leadership structure, a stated purpose or manifesto, and various levels of an organized, continuous course of criminal activities,” according to CBS.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Chicago for March 2015 – not seasonally adjusted – was 6.4 percent, while the national rate for that month was 5.5 percent.

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