By Vivian Kaleta, Copy Editor
On May 14, 2022 around 7:30 PM, Seandell Holliday, a 16-year-old student at Gary Comer High School was shot and killed while standing near ‘The Bean’. Moments prior to Holliday’s murder, a crowd flooded Millenium Park after an argument broke out.
In response, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew requiring Chicagoans younger than 18 to be accompanied by a “responsible adult” in order to visit Millennium Park after 6 PM Thursday through Sunday. Violence, however, continued when only 5 days later, 9 people were shot outside a McDonald’s on Chicago’s Near Northside.
Chase Harding, a sophomore at Payton, believes that the curfew will help “mitigate violence in the city.” On the flip side, Campbell Meszaros ‘24 believes that the curfew “seems like a temporary fix to an all but temporary problem.” Overall, fear has escalated amongst Payton’s students as both Millenium Park and the McDonald’s, which is close to Payton, are common areas of visitation.
This increase in violence is not an anomaly. According to Amy Hrdlicka, a licensed clinical social worker who specifically coordinates care services throughout Illinois to families in need, many of whom endured some act of violence, “in the last five to 10 years some of the cases [she has] been getting have been much more grueling in terms of violence”. She added that she doesn’t “know if those things were happening earlier and we just weren’t hearing about it” and that social media has been making these things public recently. In the context of the last two years, Hrdlicka pointed to the mental impacts the pandemic has left on people as “isolation” as well as any “built-up stress” have led to people committing violence in response. “It gets to a point where people just explode”, she said.
In addition to issues related to social media, Hrdlicka also mentioned the lack of behavioral health and mental health resources as staffing in these areas has dwindled in recent years. Evidently, the effects of violence on families have their layers as well. Hrdlicka highlighted that the way people handle loss can differ entirely just by looking at someone’s relational circumstances. “When we experience loss, I will use my job as an example: the first thing we look at is ‘Does this family have some type of support system?’ Suppose a family is surrounded by some type of community. In that case, they don’t per se handle it well but better than those without because they have that added strength.” When asked how safety can increase in such public areas like Millenium Park, Hrdlicka said that based on her experience an approach on security seemed viable at this time. Hrdlicka believed that “really taking a look at security currently” and improving it could mitigate some risk of violence.