Chicago violence interrupter programs scale up as summer shootings heat up

Monday, June 17, 2024
Chicago violence interrupter programs scale up as summer shootings heat up
Violence intervention programs designed to stop Chicago shootings before they happen are expanding their efforts this summer.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As Chicago comes off a violent weekend with more than 70 shootings, nine of which were fatal, community violence intervention programs in Austin, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Little Village are expanding as part of a public-private initiative launched earlier this year.

Their efforts will not end with the summer; they will continue through the fall.

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The violent weekend adds urgency to the effort to do more to stop the violence before it happens. Peacekeepers on the front lines feel hopeful that, by hiring more people, they can reduce the number of shootings.

"When we get there and we see that we can't help, that's why we do everything to stop the retaliation," said Frederick Wallace, part of the Peacekeeper Alliance of Local Service Organizations, who responded to the mass shooting in West Humboldt Park this past weekend.

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Numerous groups involved in violence prevention gathered Monday to announce plans to scale up programs in Austin and West Humboldt Park this summer, with other community expansions to come in the fall.

"When we don't make it about a single agency, a single entity, a single name, a single brand, but when we make it about the children in Chicago and safety in our streets we will do amazing things," said Matt DeMateo, CEO of New Life Center.

The peacekeepers are meant to supplement the efforts of Chicago police in making streets safer, and some research indicates they may be making a difference.

A study of one peacekeeper program from July through December 2023 showed that where peacekeepers manned hotspots, there was a 35% reduction in shootings compared to the same period the previous year.

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"They have their work to do and the police have their work to do. They are trying to deescalate situations try to keep them, prevent them from happening. Police are going to go out there and arrest and do their job," said 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts.

In violence-plagued communities, the programs will try to reach those individuals most likely to shoot or be shot. Leaders expressed hope.

"It's a lot of hard work; it's not gonna happen overnight, it's going to be over time," said Arne Duncan, managing director of Chicago CRED. "We've never seen so many groups coming together to work and try and make neighborhoods safer."

"You have to be from the community to do this work. And I growed up in Humboldt Park and I was part of the problem. Now I'm part of the solution," said Wallace.

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