Social media used to help stop the violence

March 31, 2013 8:31:18 PM PDT
New numbers from Chicago Police show a big decline in murders this month compared to last year, but that does not erase last year's 500 homicides and a young man is using social media to form a movement against violence.

Police say it's not time to declare victory, but preliminary numbers indicate a big improvement over last year.

Sunday night, police say there were 36 fewer murders in March of this year than in March of last year, a 69 percent reduction in the murder rate. It builds on a reduction in murders in February as well.

Experts say two months in a row with a drop in the homicide rate is a good sign for the city, but there is still a lot of work to be done, which is why Bryant Cross started what he says is becoming a movement.

It was the vicious beating death of 16-year-old Fenger High School student Derrion Albert in 2009 that first got Cross thinking what he could do.

He says he's lost many friends to the epidemic of street violence in the city. It makes him sad and angry, and he wanted to do something about it.

"After thinking about the murder rate and also kind of noticing the attention it wasn't getting, I figured I had to do something to cross those two bridges," Cross said.

That's what prompted him to start the Instagram and Facebook pages called the 500 Campaign, a reference to the alarming number of murders in the city last year. He's encouraged people to post pictures of themselves with an angry look, reflecting how they feel about the violence in Chicago.

"Anger is a very strong emotion and I think anger also makes you want to do something about it," said Cross.

Not all the pictures are angry. Some show parents with their children. Others memorialize victims.

More than 1,200 people around the country have posted pictures since he started the site a month ago in the aftermath of the shooting death of 15-year-old Hidaya Pendleton.

It reminded him of the first time he attended the funeral for a friend who'd been murdered.

"You have to look at someone that you know, that you shook hands with and look at that person motionless in a casket," he said.

Cross now teaches college communications classes in Florida, which he says gives him a different perspective on the violence in his hometown.

"When you're outside of Chicago and you read about what other people are saying about Chicago, it's all negative, it's all, "Chicago is a wasteland, it's like a death pool,'" he said.

Cross is hoping this leads to a peace rally in Chicago, which is still in the planning stages for June.

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