'Safe Haven, Safe Summer' program aims to protect Chicago kids from summer violence

June 25, 2012 (CHICAGO)

This comes after two teenagers were shot and killed in Chicago over the weekend. The program provides activities for children in an effort to protect them from violence on the streets.

Chicago Public Schools and 60 different churches around the city have partnered to give an estimated 2,000 kids a safe place to play.

"Instead of them being involved in the crime or involved in the gangs, they have a community and a family here," said program director Rebecca Johnson. "Then they will choose to be a part of the family, to be a part of the community."

Safe Haven goes through August 3 and serves children from kindergarten through 8th grade.

The first day of the camps comes after two teenagers were shot and killed in Chicago over the weekend. Sandra Tyler's 13-year-old son Tyquan died in her arms near 62nd and Rhodes.

Tyler sent Tyquan to live with a relative in East Moline after she saw the violence in the neighborhood. He had just come back to visit Chicago for summer break. On Sunday, he begged his mom to go to a party with his sisters. Then, just after 1 a.m., a fight broke out. Someone drove by and shot into the crowd.

"It's just sad that everybody is losing their children to gun violence," said Tyler. "It's just really sad. It's just really sad, and something needs to be done."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he met with some of the grieving relatives who lost a child this weekend.

Monday, Emanuel maintained that the Chicago Police Department has the right plan in place to reduce crime without hiring more officers. He cited the gang audits being done in 23 Chicago police districts, the city's efforts to shut down crime-magnet businesses, and his efforts to rewrite the city's firearms ordinance.

"I do believe that we have the right strategy," Emanuel said. "Overall crime is down 11 percent, but we have had something significantly different that hasn't happened before, and that is gang-on-gang violence and the breakdown of the gang structure, and it's not just policing, you have to involve the religious community."

The Safe Haven program is free to all CPS students. You can sign up at any participating church, but spots are going fast.

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