President Preckwinkle Observes Gun Violence Awareness Day with Call to Action

Cook County Health and Justice Advisory Council Allocate Resources for Violence Prevention

With gun-related homicides up by more than 15% in Cook County this year, President Toni Preckwinkle was joined by County officials at the Medical Examiner’s Office today to observe the sixth annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“The violence across our County, particularly in our black and brown communities, is absolutely devastating,” said President Preckwinkle. “Each one of our residents deserves to feel safe walking in their neighborhood, pumping gas at the local gas station and just sitting on their front stoop. Right now, that is not the case and it’s completely unacceptable.”

Cook County has seen a substantial rise in gun-related homicides this year according to the County’s Medical Examiner’s Office. To date, African Americans and Latinos were the victims of 99% of the 352 homicides in Cook County during the first five months of 2021. More than 90% of those homicides were gun-related. Seventy-five percent of the decedents were 35 years old or younger. The youngest victim of gun violence this year was seven years old.

“In 2020, Cook County confirmed a record 881 gun homicides and a total of 977 homicides,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar. “This year we are on track to exceed 1,000 gun-related homicides alone. We haven’t seen homicide numbers this high since the mid-1990s.”

Cook County Health (CCH) and the County’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC) are putting initiatives in place to help combat the soaring homicide rate.

Cook County Health provides care for more than 1,100 patients with gunshot wounds every year through Stroger Hospital, accounting for 20% of the patients that get treatment through the Comprehensive Trauma Unit. Patients who arrive at the trauma unit with vital signs have a 95% chance of survival, but the impact of gun violence on these patients and their families creates long-lasting trauma.

“While we talk about those who die as a result of gun violence, the ramifications for survivors can be just as devastating,” said Dr. Faran Bokhari, Chair of Trauma, Cook County Health. “Gun violence impacts our patients physically, emotionally and socially for the rest of their lives and for the generations that come after. I have been a trauma surgeon for more than 20 years and you never get used to the violence and the tragedy that we see every day.”

In an effort to combat disinvestment seen throughout affected communities, the Cook County Equity Fund was established by President Preckwinkle last year with an initial investment of nearly $100 million. Combined with other equity-focused initiatives, the County will invest roughly $120 million in in FY21 and FY22 in mental health and other supportive services, increasing access to jobs, capital and critical social services, and helping build wealth through business and home ownership.

“Cook County acknowledges that government has contributed to the marginalization of and disinvestment in Black and Latinx communities,” President Preckwinkle said. “We know these impacts accumulate over time and have led to the circumstance in which we find ourselves today. We believe the new Equity Fund is yet another important step Cook County is taking in addressing these disparities, and represents a meaningful path to achieve more equitable outcomes and support communities where residents can live, learn, play, grow and thrive.”

To obtain additional homicide data from Medical Examiner’s Office, visit their case archive.  

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Natalia Derevyanny