CHICAGO (CBS) — While shootings and murders have escalated in some Chicago neighborhoods, the north side Rogers Park neighborhood has gone since Halloween without even a shooting — 119 days.
Wednesday night, community residents met with representatives from the group CeaseFire to discuss the streak, and what has allowed it to happen.
“It’s been phone calls saying, ‘Man, if you don’t hurry up and get over here, it’s gonna be something,’ and they end up talking guys and girls off the ledges,” said Ameena Matthews, one of the most prominent of CeaseFire’s so-called violence interrupters.
Matthews symbolizes the controversy that surrounds CeaseFire, a group that has received state funding and is partnering with police in several districts to try to reduce violence. She is the daughter of infamous Black P Stone and El Rukn leader Jeff Fort, and was once a gang enforcer in her own right.
Now, she said, she takes to the streets with a different message: “Listen, you don’t have to shoot.”
Not everyone is sold on the group’s efforts. One teen asked if CeaseFire interrupters are hypocrites because they once embraced the violent lifestyle they are asking others to repudiate.
Willie Dixon of CeaseFire’s Rogers Park branch defended the group’s approach by saying, “It’s easier to be negative. But it doesn’t matter what someone says against us because we know what we stand for. And on another note, everything that I did wrong, it’s only meant for someone like me to come back and try to help my community, because the only people who are going to help us is us.”
Ald. Joe Moore (49) was expected to attend the celebration at the Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Av., but did not appear. Moore issued a newsletter Wednesday that credits the police, but did not mention CeaseFire, the Peace Angels, or other anti-violence groups operating in the ward.
CeaseFire program manager J.W. Hughes said “it takes a community” to produce such results and said it underscores the need for prevention efforts to work alongside community policing to minimize crime.