CHICAGO (CBS)— Gangs entering Chicago parks is a chronic problem in the city’s violence epidemic, but today the story was different.
In the North Pullman neighborhood, rival gang members have joined forces with volunteers to help build a playground as a reward for eight months without violence in the neighborhood.
CBS 2’s Mai Martinez joined the volunteers at the park at 104th and Corliss Friday.
Some of the gang members asked to hide their faces, but no one could hide their smiles when they saw their hard work come to fruition.
The cease fire began last October after gang members in the area decided they had grown tired of the violence, Martinez reports.
Separated by a short distance of two blocks, the two gangs fought over the territory for many years. The playground is now a beacon of hope for children in the area.
Gang member Sherman Scullarck said it seems that peace has finally trumped a small piece of the city’s gang violence.
“It’s peace going on now,” Scullarck said. “They really could play—they don’t need to worry about anything.”
Chicago police detective Vivian Williams called the gang wars “senseless.” She helped broker the deal for the cease fire.
“Several young men have been shot (and) some kill over a gang war that none of them even knew what they were fighting about,” Williams said.
Williams connected the gang members to Chicago CRED, an organization focused on reducing violence in the city.
“We’re working directly with the young men on the south and west sides most likely to shoot and be shot,” said Arne Duncan of Chicago CRED. “They didn’t ask for anything for themselves. They said ‘our kids have no place to play. Can you help us build a playground?’”
The rival gang members ended up joining forces to build the playground. The story is igniting hope that other gangs across the city could follow suit.
Scullarck said the newfound peace has been “wonderful.”
“You get to hang out, sit on the porch and not have to feel somebody’s jumping out of the car and start shooting,” Scullarck said. “The kids can have somewhere to play peacefully and both sides can come and enjoyed themselves.”