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‘Peacekeepers’ use hard-earned knowledge of the streets to stop violence

One summer night in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood known as the “Wild Hundreds,” Cedric Hawkins walked with a merry crowd of current and former gangsters, pointing at invisible landmarks.

On either side of Perry Street in West Pullman, several square blocks separated by approximately 117 and 119 are Buff City, named after a member of the Black Disciples who was killed when Hawkins was a teenager. named. A gentle slope along South Michigan Avenue divides Up-the-Hill and Down-the-Hill, the terrain that separates his two factions in Gangster Disciples.

“And GDs that stay up hill don’t like GDs that go down,” Hawkins says. “And all could change depending on the day.”

He also pointed out abandoned schools, once-bustling shops, and even places that meant the most to one of Hawkins’ fellow travelers.

“That guy over there was shot in this corner,” Hawkins said as he walked toward the intersection of State and 119, a few steps away from a tall gangster with thick braids hanging under his baseball cap. said while gesturing to the members of

“Nine times,” said the one-time victim indifferently.

Chicago CRED Strategic Initiatives Manager Cedric Hawkins (left) and Chicago CRED Outreach Supervisor Terrence Henderson (right) take an outreach walk in the Roseland/West Pullman area on Thursday. Standing outdoors inside.

Anthony Vasquez/The Sun-Times

This hard-won knowledge of the street is one of the unique credentials for the dozen South Siders who operate in this violence-ridden neighborhood of West Pullman and Roseland.

As Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and a season of historic violence spikes, CRED distributes nearly $11 million in state funds to prevent violence It is one of ten community-based organizations that The group’s FLIP program gives “peace activists” a $100 daily stipend.

FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) and similar programs have seen their size nearly dwindle amid a surge in violent crime coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, with funding from state departments of human services and an influx of funds from local, federal and charity organizations. Enlarged twice.

Overall, 500 workers will be assigned to 102 “hot spots” this summer. The hotspots are 14 of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, which together account for half of the city’s homicides.Another “crisis team” of 30 outreach workers launched this year How to work in the bustling downtown of the city.

Between February and May, when FLIP staff were deployed, the targeted hotspots saw a 21% drop in shootings, well above the citywide 14% drop over the same period. A preliminary report from Northwestern University’s Center for Neighborhood and Community Studies found that 88 of the 102 hotspots had no shootings at all.

The study notes that the data are still incomplete to draw an association between the presence of FLIP workers and shootings. But a growing body of evidence that FLIP and outreach programs aimed at those most involved in violence can curb murders has helped pave the way for state governments to sponsor a rethink of public safety laws. State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) said: Funding FLIP-style programs.

“They’re working in the hottest part of the city, taking a lot of risks, and they have a track record of success,” Peters said. “We have to make sure we try what works and stay away from what doesn’t.”

Former CPD Deputy Chief Anthony Riccio retired this year after serving 30 years. We’ve seen the birth and death of FLIP and many of its predecessors. He recalled when the city poured $2 million into a ceasefire commission and hired former gang members as “saboteurs” to quell an ongoing conflict. According to Riccio, the ceasefire commission lost city funds during the 2009 economic downturn and never earned the trust of CPD senior and rank-and-file employees.

“I think it’s hard to say they mitigated anything because you can never quantify a shooting that didn’t actually happen,” Riccio said. “From a police point of view, I think a lot of police officers would prefer the money to be spent differently…I would rather have two police officers than 30 violent obstructers every day. It’s better.”

Terrence Henderson, Outreach Supervisor for Chicago CRED, joins other Chicago CRED members in wearing a jacket during an outreach at Roseland/West Pullman on Thursday.

Terrence Henderson, Outreach Supervisor for Chicago CRED, joins other Chicago CRED members in wearing a jacket during an outreach at Roseland/West Pullman on Thursday.

Anthony Vasquez/The Sun-Times

FLIP participants work eight-hour shifts Tuesday through Saturday to curb violence in their neighborhoods in order to earn scholarships. Workers are trained in conflict resolution, but their credibility to mediate disputes and know when friction between groups is edging toward a shootout is what once set foot on the streets. , and some new hires come from still on their feet, said manager Terrence Henderson. Responsible for CRED’s outreach activities.

Henderson acknowledges that police and hotspot residents may not be aware when FLIP officials transition from villains to peacemakers. FLIP employees wear colored vests to identify themselves and hope to avoid attacks from former rivals and being stopped by police who may have previously arrested them. .

“There are a lot of players here who won’t tell you the time. They’re completely embroiled in war and violence,” Henderson said of a six-man FLIP crew pushing a stalled car in Southern Michigan. said while watching They are here to make a difference. Please give them a little grace. “

Members of rival gangs may also be unaware or less concerned about this change. Ronnie Roper was gunned down in broad daylight two weeks ago in front of the building where CRED hosts classes for its intensive vocational and cognitive-behavioral therapy program. Roper was on track to complete his high school diploma in August, but was still “too enthusiastic” to advocate or even make public appearances. said Henderson.

“Some people are too hot to get out here. They’ve done too much and there will always be people looking for them,” Henderson said.

FLIP’s recruits are recruited from among Chicagoans, almost all black and Latino men in their teens to 30s, who are at the highest risk of being shot or shooting others. They are identified by algorithms that analyze webs of family and friends called social networks, data on shootings and arrests, as well as knowledge gathered by aid workers about athletes in conflict. Statistically, they are 50 times more likely to be a shooter or victim than the average Chicagoan.

FLIP’s employees are young, in their teens and twenties, and tend to be much closer to violence, so you can talk to the people who are most actively involved in gang warfare, but much of it is trivial and mundane. stems from personal resentment.

Charles Bowers, 26, works for FLIP and covers a few blocks of Buff Town around the house he grew up in, but used to sell drugs and run with gang members. rice field. Standing on the porch of his Perry Street home, he remembered that only a few years earlier his best friend had been shot in the chest in the same spot. Earlier this month, Mr. Bowers successfully quelled a feud between an active gang member he knew from childhood and an older man who was brandishing a gun.

“I saw him with a gun and I stepped in between them,” Bowers recalled. When asked how he managed to defuse such a tense situation, or how he managed to avoid being shot himself, Mr. Bowers smiled puzzledly as if the answer was obvious.

“They are my friends. I know them and they know me,” Bowers said. “They know I’ve been out there and done something. I’ve changed that, but to them I’m still a normal person.”

Chicago CRED members will hold placards and chant as they walk through Roseland on Thursday.

Chicago CRED members will hold placards and chant as they walk through Roseland on Thursday.

Anthony Vasquez/The Sun-Times

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2023/5/27/23740049/peacekeepers-chicago-cred-flip-violence-memorial-day-weekend-shootings-murder-gangs ‘Peacekeepers’ use hard-earned knowledge of the streets to stop violence

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