Education Lab, Crime Lab Connect & Redirect to Respect

Chicago continues to grapple with unacceptably high levels of gun violence that threaten the very future of the city itself. While our city is not alone in confronting this crisis, Chicago’s challenge is uniquely tragic in its concentration among our city’s most vulnerable residents—school-aged youth. Compared to other cities, a significantly larger share of Chicago’s victims and suspects of gun violence are adolescents. And far too often, the conflicts that leave students victimized begin as insults on social media that escalate into serious violence.

In 2014, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) received a grant through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to pilot an innovative new approach to reducing violence and promoting safety among CPS students. The Connect & Redirect to Respect (CRR) program aims to keep students safe by using information gathered via social media to identify students engaging in risky behaviors—such as instigating conflict, signaling involvement in a gang, or brandishing a weapon—and connect them to a caring adult who seeks to understand their situation, help them navigate it, and connect them with services intended to keep them safe.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab partnered with CPS to evaluate the effects of CRR. The Crime Lab met with school personnel to better understand the safety challenges they face and their connection to social media activity, and analyzed student data from participating high schools as well as schools that did not receive the program. We find suggestive evidence that, once the program was fully implemented, students attending participating high schools were at lower risk of being shooting victims; experienced fewer misconduct incidents and out-of-school suspensions; and attended school for several additional days, relative to students in non-participating high schools. These findings suggest that CRR may be a promising approach to improving school and student safety.

Photo Credit: Crime Lab & Education Lab Project Associate, Andy Goelzer

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