To stem violence in one of the city's most critical neighborhoods, at one of the most critical times of the year, organizers in Englewood implemented the Target 7-11 H.I.T. program.
Working evening and overnight shifts every weekend during the month of July, intervention specialists trained by Cure Violence (formerly known as CeaseFire) deployed onto the streets of Englewood to interrupt violence where they could.
Another crucial part of the program is a movement called Pass 36, convincing perpetrators of violence not to shoot at an intended target when he or she is near family members or innocent bystanders.
Brandis Friedman brings us the story on Chicago Tonight. Below, photos from her walk-along with program organizers in Englewood on July 31.
Brandis Friedman: It’s a warm, summer evening in Englewood, as a crew of lime green T-shirts takes to the streets.
Wearing them are violence intervention specialists.
From 66th and Halsted, our camera begins to follow them around – and within minutes – the taste of the animosity that’s present on some of Chicago’s tougher streets.
It’s why Clarence January and Bennie Clark are here. They’ve been trained by the nonprofit Cure Violence – formerly known as CeaseFire – on becoming violence interrupters.
Bennie Clark: I walk through the neighborhood and communicate with the little guys, ask 'em how they're doing and see what they got on their mind, if anything bothering them or anything.
BF: The one-month pilot program they’re working for is called Target 7-11 H.I.T.
"Seven," for the 7th police district in Englewood; the 11 represents the police district where Garfield Park sits.
And H.I.T. stands for Health Initiative Training.
Autry Phillips had the program implemented in both neighborhoods just for the month of July, hiring 150 people in each neighborhood, for a total of 300.
Phillips heads the grassroots social justice nonprofit called Target Area.
Autry Phillips: We believe that using the individuals who live in the community is the best way to solve violence in their community. Why: Because if you and I went to Englewood and tried to break up a fight, it may not go very well. But if the aunties, or the uncles, or the nieces break up that fight, it'll probably go a whole lot better.
BF: Interventionists worked evening and overnight shifts every weekend for the month.
Many of them are like Clark – reformed gang members now paying it forward.
BC: When are you going to know that enough is enough. And it takes a lot for these guys to see people that, once upon a time, were a part of problem, being a part of the solution. What you saw me doing back then wasn't the right thing, now I'm doing the right thing.
BF: Phillips says his organization received an anonymous $400,000 donation to fund the program.
Cure Violence program director Jalon Arthur explains why July is a critical time.
Jalon Arthur: We're at last day of July, and what we're seeing right now is more than 60 percent reductions in shootings and killings. And keep in mind, the months leading up to July – January through June – there was an 85 percent increase in shootings.
BF: People in this neighborhood believe Target 7-11 H.I.T. had some impact, especially over the notoriously violent Fourth of July weekend.
AP: July fourth weekend: fantastic weekend. Target area 7-11 H.I.T., contributed to the zero shootings, zero homicides in Englewood.
BF: Zero shootings, zero homicides.
For the entire month of July, Englewood saw 12 shootings, 2 homicides.
Arthur says another important piece of the puzzle: A violence interruption technique called Pass 36 – getting perpetrators of violence to agree to leaving innocent people out of their disputes.
JA: If me and you have a conflict, and I come for you, and you're out there with your child, your mother, other community bystanders are standing around. Then I give you a pass and don't engage in violence.
BF: The program director says just as shootings have a ripple effect across the community, so do prevented shootings.
JA: If we can not shoot for this set of reasons today, then we can not shoot for this set of reasons tomorrow.
BF: Though the month of July is over, advocates here hope the impact of Target 7-11 H.I.T. is long lasting.
For Chicago Tonight, I’m Brandis Friedman.
Jalon Arthur of Cure Violence discusses the Pass 36 public education campaign in this web extra video.
A Q&A between Brandis Friedman and Dean Angelo, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge 7.
What are your thoughts on programs like Target 7-11, that employ community members to be violence interrupters?
Anybody involved in helping reduce crime is welcome. There is a need for neighborhood involvement, people willing to volunteer their time, or however they’re getting compensated. I don't think it's going to be just police, anymore, involved in trying to get handle on what's going on out there.
I haven’t heard anything detrimental from members regarding this 7-11 group. I’m not sure how everyone in those districts, or how some officers might feel, or if they've had any encounters with this group that might be considered not popular. But it's something I think everyone sees as a necessity, everyone welcome people’s involvement with community policing, neighborhood block clubs. Whatever can be done to put a cap on this violence is important.
What are your thoughts on Pass 36, to get violence perpetrators to avoid shooting innocents?
Twenty-six shootings happened on expressway since 1st of year. I don't know if they were road rage or chasing the other opposing gang down the street and shooting at them. I'm not sure where we stand on giving credence to people that are involved in illegal activity, gang activity. I worked in gang crimes for over 13 years, one of our positions was don't, typically, don't get or give the gang members any sort of recognition. We didn't want names of gang affiliations in newspaper. Then you’re giving them the recognition and glorifying their behavior, subliminal as it may be.
So one of our positions back then, that I was trained under in gang unit, try to avoid that. So giving credence to someone involved in that lifestyle is difficult for police. Because we'd much rather have non-criminal elements involved in teaching people how to be not involved in crime. If you want to learn math you go to a mathematician. So, how do you have someone that's been involved, or is still involved in crime, teach you how not to be involved. It’s almost like it doesn't fit. In police culture, it's difficult for us to recognize that as being a contributing factor.
That being said, any saving of any life, any innocent child that's out there, any saving of life is what we're looking for on both sides of this discussion. So if that's the result, God bless. Let's do more of it. To break down that wall of suspicion, to have police officers sitting at tables with known admitted members of street crime, violence & gangs—that’s a hurdle for us to get to that.
What are your thoughts on using former perpetrators of violence to convince others to not commit violent crimes?
How is that being demonstrated, are they truly gone? That would be our question. Are they truly out of that lifestyle? How long can you stay out of that lifestyle, what's available to you on the outside, besides this? Easy for when finances and opportunities aren't what you'd like them to be, for you to go back [to a life of crime]. If it's a positive impact they're having, God bless them.