Susan Lee is the chief of strategy and policy at Chicago CRED, a nonprofit serving primarily young Black men vulnerable to the consequences of gun violence on Chicago’s South and West sides. By combining street outreach, life coaching, job training, education, and trauma services, the targeted gun violence prevention model serves individuals in historically neglected communities that lack an adequate public health infrastructure. The benefits of this approach were reflected in a recent study that found that CRED participants were less likely to be involved in gun assaults and robberies and that participants who completed the two-year program were 73 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Susan has always been driven by social justice and sees it as her mission in life. After completing undergraduate and law degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, she worked on international issues relating to human rights and political prisoners. Following the Los Angeles uprising in 1992, she felt compelled to turn her focus domestically to address systems of racism and structures of inequity in America. Susan has collaborated with the community throughout her career, from leading youth services in LA’s Koreatown to building a charter school to running an outpatient mental health clinic and doing gang intervention work.
Her focus shifted from working with one child and family at a time to creating systems change when one of her 15-year-old clients was shot in the face on a bus. In 2007, Susan developed the blueprint for the city of Los Angeles to approach violence reduction in a new way. She then led the Urban Peace Institute in LA before moving to Chicago to work at CRED. After serving as then-Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s deputy mayor of public safety, she returned to Chicago CRED to advance a citywide violence reduction strategy, ensure that public and private resources are investing in prevention, and engage private philanthropy and the corporate sector in the public safety discourse. Now, Susan’s focused on making sure that the violence reduction field in Chicago and beyond continues to innovate, evolve, and improve, while also addressing challenges to expanding the CVI infrastructure.