Chicago 'interrupters' working to cool tempers before weekend violence explodes

July 6, 2012 3:26:49 PM PDT
As the temperature rises, too often, tension also goes up in some Chicago neighborhoods, and tension can escalate to violence. Many community groups are working to reverse the trend as we head into the weekend.

It's the predictable result that occurs when hot weather is added to already-existing tensions that anti-violence advocates hope to prevent. Friday afternoon, efforts to stop the bloodshed before it happens are already underway by anti-violence groups, the faith community and those in neighborhoods affected by the violence.

Friday was another hot day, but CeaseFire interrupter Ameena Matthews still took to the streets of Englewood to talk to neighborhood residents in an effort to stop more gang and gun violence before it begins.

"That's the goal, is to work on getting these guys to change their mindsets, that they don't have to use a gun 'cause it's in the community," Matthews said.

The group's new partnership with the city officially starts later this month.

The promised funding is a first as Chicago experiences yet another dangerous summer that's already claimed several young lives, including Heaven Sutton, the 7-year-old killed by a stray bullet when an alleged gang member opened fire on who he thought was a rival gang member.

Just hours before Sutton's service, authorities say a 15-year-old boy was among the most recent victims of gun violence.

And, with one of the hottest weekends upon us, St. Sabina's Father Michael Pfleger once again handed out free water to anyone who wanted it in his ongoing attempts to keep things cool.

"Things like this bring, not only us into service, but also bring a good feeling in the community," said Pfleger. "The more we create good feeling in the community, the more the community will start to take care of each other and look after each other."

Pfleger's efforts are ongoing as the Chicago Police Department continues its crime fighting initiative -- targeting trouble areas like Englewood. But Alderman Latasha Thomas says the neighborhood which is included in her 17th Ward gets a bad rap.

"There are really positive things," said Thomas. "When we're doing our gospel festival, and there's 20,000 people in the park, we don't have any incidents. There are no incidents."

That's exactly what 17-year-old South Side resident Justin Irving hopes for after losing too many friends to violence.

"I know a lot of people, and they just keep dropping. It's like there's no end," said Irving.

Explanations for the spike in violence are varied depending on who you talk to. While some experts blame record breaking heat and the splintering of Chicago street gangs, others point to gun laws.

One thing most everyone agrees: No one group can slow the violence alone.


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