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Gun Violence’s Economic Toll on Local Economies / By: Vivian Kaleta

3.5 billion dollars. That is how much gun violence costs the city of Chicago every year (CRED, 2022). These costs, commonly referred to as a ‘violence tax’ in Chicago encompass numerous factors such as ‘healthcare costs and police costs’. Unfortunately, the impact of gun violence does not stop at the physiological trauma individuals face but carry extraneous economical impacts as well. 


On a local scale, gun violence stunts community economic growth. Big corporations are increasingly moving their stores out of areas with continuous rising levels of violence and crime. “In Washington, DC, for example, every 10 additional gunshots in a census tract in a given year were associated with 20 fewer jobs among new establishments, one less new business opening, and one more business closing the same year” (Urban Institute, 2017).  A similar case can be seen in Chicago’s own neighborhood, Edgewater, as a Starbucks was recently closed in the area due to “ongoing safety concerns” (Yassine, 2022). Small businesses, especially, are hit hard and pushed to the brink of survival. In the United States, employers alone experience “$534.91 million per year in direct costs related to gun violence.” Expenses lie within insurance and security costs as well as productivity costs like “lost revenue due to unfilled jobs” and having to “close shop at earlier times” (Everytown, 2022). When sharing his experience, Pravin Goel, a convenience shop owner in one of Chicago’s South side neighborhoods, stressed the immense fear he had for his business post pandemic as an increase in violence forced him to allocate funds already dwindled into security measures. “After the pandemic, everyday became riskier and riskier. Stores like mine are very easy targets for crime.” Goel stated, “Anyone can just walk in with a gun and demand money or they can steal my products. Thieves know owners like me have very little protection. I took a lot of money out to buy new security cameras and started closing my store early just for our own safety. Not only do I fear the life of my store, but my own life also.” 


Without incentive to stay, businesses dwindle and investors in local communities dwindle with them. Arne Duncan, previous United States Secretary of Education, CEO of CPS, and founder of gun violence reduction non-profit CRED, describes the situation as a “chicken-or-egg problem.” “While there is that legitimate fear for businesses, a key way to stop the violence is to create economic activity and bring jobs to communities.” Through CRED, Duncan transforms men and women recently out of incarceration or those stuck in lives of violence to be ready for legal work. “When we started 6 years ago, $12 or $13 an hour was the price point in which folks wanted to put down the guns and do something else. We work with them through trauma coaching and skill development for about a year.” Duncan works to build relationships between communities and businesses and encourages “businesses to stay and new businesses to come.” “There’s an absolute stigmatization of folks who need a second chance.” Duncan said, “To all our employers, this can’t be philanthropy. This may be a different talent pool than used to but these folks are leaders who are resilient that have gone through amazing transformation. They want something better for their family and for their community. And so you got to see these folks as real assets to your place of business.” Duncan also stressed that “We need the business community to continue to hire. We’re fighting an economic problem, not really a crime problem. If people don't have a way to make a living in the legal economy, then they basically have no choice but to go back to doing whatever they were previously.”


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