(The Center Square) – Tio Hardiman concedes he likes some of what he sees from new Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson in the city’s ongoing battle to curb its growing violent crime problem.
“When Johnson makes a statement he always says it’s going to take a lot of effort and admits he knows this battle is a work in progress,” Hardiman told The Center Square. “We’ve got to hold our leaders accountable when it comes to having a plan to tackle the issues. Former Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot never took accountability, even when all her strategies failed, and that’s part of the reason why things never got better during her administration.”
As the current executive director for Violence Interrupters and a past leader of award-winning public health model Ceasefire, Hardiman speaks from experience when it comes to community organizing for peace.
“A lot of people are going back and forth about what we need, with some stressing more jobs for young people,” Hardiman said. “That’s true, but that alone won’t stop all the violence. We’ve got to understand that you have some young people that have committed themselves to a life of criminal activity. With that population, it will take dealing with all the trauma and mental health that’s led to that way of thinking. It’s going to take much more than just the usual.”
As violent crime rates continue to surge across much of the city, including as many as 75 people being shot, 13 of them fatally, over the recent Father’s Day weekend, Hardiman said he is hoping for the chance to be able to meet with Johnson to talk strategy.
Overall, crime across the city is up by 38% since Johnson took over at City Hall in April, as Chicago Police Department statistics show aggravated batteries (17%), burglaries (12%) and car thefts (153%) are also all sharply on the rise compared to last year.
“That we’re seeing violence up all over the city tells you that some people just feel violence is the only way out for them,” Hardiman said. “If we do not address this epidemic of gun violence as a public health emergency or a public health issue, we may miss the opportunity to really change the landscape overall.”
Hardiman said any real solution needs to factor in more consideration for all those who have found themselves to be victims of the scourge.
“We have to start speaking up for all these victims,” he said. “There should be an all-out strategy that targets all the individuals that are committing all these crimes. We need to have a laser-focus on all the killers and robbers. Police do the best that they can, but they can’t get involved until a crime is committed, and in a lot of cases that means it’s too late.”
While stressing that some law enforcement policies need to change, Hardiman adds that officers need to be allowed to do more of the job when it comes to confronting those responsible for much of the violence.
“We need to stop taking up for these guys,” he said. “When a young guy picks up a gun and decides to commit a violent crime, he’s willing to accept whatever comes his way. Some people wake up every day with crime on their mind and that has more to do with mindset than having a job.”
In the end, Hardiman, who was recently awarded The Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award by the Southland Black Chamber of Commerce, says a big part of stopping the killings is about establishing personal relationships across the landscape.
“You can’t employ peace keepers in Chicago unless you have personal relationships,” he said. “It’s time to revamp the entire police and violence prevention systems. We’ve got to do more investing in these communities.”