Center for American Progress

Community Violence Intervention: Susan Lee and Chicago CRED
Video

Community Violence Intervention: Susan Lee and Chicago CRED

Susan Lee, chief of strategy and policy at Chicago CRED, explains why gun violence is a modern-day civil rights issue and how community violence intervention (CVI) strategies must be part of any public safety strategy to address racial inequity and structural violence.

Part of a Series

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.

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Authors

Nick Wilson

Senior Director

Chandler Hall

Senior Policy Analyst

Producers

Hai-Lam Phan

Senior Director, Creative

Ala Al Sadi

Former Video Producer

Toni Pandolfo

Video Producer, Production

Madalyn Reagan

Video Intern

Matthew Gossage

Events Video Producer

Team

Gun Violence Prevention

Our goal is to reduce gun violence by enacting strong gun laws, increasing investment in local solutions, and growing the movement dedicated to this mission.

Explore The Series

Photo shows a young man lighting a candle in the late evening

In America, gunshots rattle communities every 11 minutes. Amid this cycle of tragedy, community violence intervention (CVI) programs are addressing the root causes of violence to end cycles before they can start.

Through collaboration with residents and government officials, CVI programs curb the spread of gun violence by meeting community members where they are and responding to their individual needs. In violence-affected neighborhoods, residents are grappling with trauma and long-standing hardships that fuel the rise in shootings. But CVI programs channel resources back into the community, improving access to needed resources such as education, employment, housing, and health care.

In a nation haunted by the daily occurrence of gun violence, CVI programs provide a path forward—toward healing, unity, and a safer future for everyone.

This series highlights resources on CVI programs and stories from the voices of change on the front lines of America’s gun violence epidemic. These narratives are a reminder of the challenges and successes that outline the effort to save more lives.

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