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CHICAGO- Poverty drives the majority of gun violence in the South Side of Chicago, and outside help is needed to bring change, a pastor in the community told Fox News.
“Violence is a fruit of something, not a root of something,” New Beginnings Church Pastor TJ Grooms said. “The root is that there is no economic vitality.”
“People are struggling financially,” Grooms continued. “And when you struggle financially, when you are living in an area that does not have what it needs to, not just survive, but to thrive, people begin to do things such as shoot, steal, rob, murder, kill.”
Chicago has seen 334 murders in 2022, while crime complaints are up 34% compared to 2021, according to city data. Last year marked the deadliest year in Chicago in a quarter-century.
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New Beginnings Church Pastor TJ Grooms discusses how poverty drives gun violence on Chicago’s South Side.
(Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)
Over 17% of Chicagoans live in poverty, compared to a national average of 11%, according to the most recent Census data.
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“I mentor dozens of of young men who have been directly affected by gun violence or who are one step away from committing it,” Grooms told Fox News. “They always tell me … ‘Pastor, you know, if I had a job, you know, if I had money, if I had resources, I wouldn’t do what I do.”
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Chicago police officers investigate a crime scene of a gunshot victim. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
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The South Side pastor said “making sure that every person in our neighborhood has something that is worth living for” is critical to curbing gun violence.
Assistant pastor TJ Groom sits outside of New Beginnings Church on the South Side of Chicago. (Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)
“We need outside help, outside resources, people who don’t look like us, people who don’t think like us, people who come from different walks of life to be willing to come in and step in and say, ‘I want to make a difference,'” Grooms told Fox News. “Once we begin to pour the amount of resources, the effort, the energy into making sure that this area is economically viable, it will calm down and reduce the level of violence that we see.”
Lisa Bennatan is an associate producer/writer for Fox News Digital Originals. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBennatan and Instagram @Lisa_Bennatan