Community groups want to address Chicago violence prevention with more than just policing

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Concerns about a violent July 4 holiday weekend already have police planning to put more officers on the streets, but as community groups gear up to do their part they're pushing the city to take a more holistic approach.

The city will be announcing its anti-violence strategy later this week, and these community leaders are urging the mayor to look at some different kinds of solutions.

"It's not the guns that are the problem, it's the poverty that is the problem, it's the joblessness that's the problem," said Tamar Manasseh, founder of Mothers and Men Against Senseless Killings (MMASK).

Manasseh founded MMASK six years ago and took over the corner of 75th and Stewart. Now what was once a vacant lot is a community school yard with classrooms inside converted shipping containers. She would like to see the city hire people to help the police.

"People need to be engaged, use people in the community to help police their own community and pay them for that," she said. "Pay them to do it. And people can say it doesn't work, but what has worked?"

Chicago police have their focus, particularly pursuing repeat violent offenders, but for the past two violent weekends community groups have been doing their part, too.

"We're talking to the groups that have been involved in conflict about non-aggression agreements, about standing down; we've been able to put a couple of those agreements in place," said Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education during the Obama administration.

Duncan is now the managing partner of Chicago CRED, an organization which provides life coaching and educations resources on the South and West Sides. The father of 20-month-old Sincere Gaston, the baby shot and killed last weekend, was turning his life around through CRED.

Duncan said this weekend outreach workers will flood 15 violence-prone areas.

"We'll have over 200 outreach workers across the city, not just in neighborhoods but in specific hot spots, and as bad as these last couple weekends have been, where our outreach workers are, they've actually been able to keep that violence down," he said.

West Side pastor Rev. Ira Acree said the city needs to invest resources in a witness protection program so people can feel safe turning in the shooters.

"People talk about let's break the silence, that's not the issue. We don't have to break the silence, we must break the culture of fear. That's the real deal," Acree said.

Rev. Acree will be hosting a discussion on social media Wednesday night to talk about other solutions. Duncan will be joining a vigil for Sincere Gaston Wednesday afternoon, where the boy's father is expected to speak.
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