Aurora provides example for stopping violence

February 1, 2013 6:06:07 AM PST
With the national spotlight focused on Chicago's violence problem, everyone seems to agree that it will take more than extra police officers on the streets to stop the violence.

People are looking to other communities to see what they have done to successfully combat violence.

Suburban Aurora had no homicides were recorded in 2012 so something must be working there.

Young men, elementary to college graduates, were honored Thursday night, recognized as Aurora success stories.

The group that hosted the event was Boys II Men Inc., an organization that focuses on education and discipline. 100 young men received awards for academic achievement.

"When we can shine a light on young men who are excellent, young men who are phenomenal, not only are their peers encouraged but the next generation sees that and becomes encouraged as well," the founder of the Boys II Men Clayton Muhammad said.

"When you're surrounded by excellence, the only thing you can do is rise to the occasion," Boys II Men member and student Meliton Chaidez said. "So I would say this group has helped me and its helped the community."

This program is one pillar that has helped Aurora accomplish a critical goal. In 2002, Aurora had 26 homicides. That dropped to zero in 2012.

"I don't think there is one program, one operation XYZ. It's a lot of cooperation from a lot of different individuals," Aurora Police Department Chief Greg Thomas said.

Boys II Men is one part. Aurora officials say law enforcement, educators, clergy members and after-school programs all played a role.

"Collaboration isn't always easy," Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said. "There is also a little ego. If you put that aside, you can get it all done."

Parents, packing the audience, also push education.

"If you have a good education, you'll have a beautiful life," parent Maria Chaidez said.

Five men received the "Phenomenal Man of the Year Award". Success must be a choice, they said.

"It's up to you to make the right decisions," Phenomenal Man of the Year Awardee Raul Buendia said.

"You see these gangs, how big they used to be in Aurora," Phenomenal Man of the Year Awardee Jared Marchiando said. "They are slowly getting pushed out the door because you have positive things like this."