Austin residents team up to fight violence

June 29, 2012 3:47:05 PM PDT
Some members of Chicago's Austin community say they aren't going to rely on Chicago police alone to solve the violence issue plaguing their community. They are making a plea to the person responsible for the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl this week to come forward. It's all part of how ordinary citizens are stepping up to help stop the violence.

At the West Side Health Authority, the motto is "every block a village" because they say they believe it takes a village to raise a child. Children in Austin are participating in physical and mental fitness programs as well as technology training and employment opportunities.

Fifteen-year-old Amber Shields is a member of the Peace Keepers, a young mentoring group at the organization that helps these boys and girls in self development, safety and education.

"We target the violence and we do a lot of community events to keep the kids in the park and give them stuff to do. Hopefully they won't be involved in gang activities," she said.

Organizers are hoping these types of programs will save lives and give the children an alternative to crime and violence.

"We get kids engaged in community service projects, recreational stuff," said Morris Reed, West Side Health Authority. "We start trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up, make it exciting to go to school, teach them good positive norms and values."

Just blocks away, a grieving family is looking for answers and help from the community in their search for the killer of Heaven Sutton, 7. She was gunned down Wednesday night in front of her home while selling candy and snow cones.

Her mother has this message to for her daughter's killer.

"You stole her life. You're a baby thief. Please just turn yourself in. Please, you're not a snitch. Please just turn them in," said Ashake Banks, mother.

Community members and ministers went door to door passing out flyers in hopes of getting information that will lead to an arrest and conviction after a $3,000 was offered.

"We need more people to speak up so we can get this guy off the streets and get justice for this family," said Rev. Ira Acree.

Check out ABC7's coverage of initiatives to stop the violence in Chicago and resources for the community

A fund has been set up in Heaven Sutton's name:

Heaven Sutton
Bank of America
Account # 291012495263


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