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Block by block: Violence in Chicago

This week in Chicago, an 8-year-old girl was killed, and her 7-year-old cousin critically injured, when two young men riding bicycles began shooting. The girls were jumping rope in front of their own home, as other children played. Witnesses said the shooters weren’t aiming at those girls in particular. Police are investigating whether the shooting stemmed from a fight among a group of teenagers that had erupted nearby earlier in the evening.

The tragedy underscored a painful feature of life in Chicago: In some parts of the city, there is an epidemic of gun violence. It’s been going on for years. It’s not that the city, state and private citizens aren’t trying to curb it. They are. But there are many factors working against them. Some of them are obvious: poverty, unemployment, drugs, lack of supervision. Other factors are harder to detect from the outside.

Need to Know heard about a program called CeaseFire that has been having some success in reducing gun violence. And because we want to report on solutions, as well as problems, we take you to the south side of Chicago, including the neighborhood where the little girls were shot, to see how the CeaseFire program works.

Updated: Two months after the Father’s Day weekend of violence that saw 54 people shot and 10 killed, only one suspect has been charged in connection with any of the shootings, the Chicago Police Department told Need to Know.

Related video: Need to Know met a former gang member who teaches Chicago youth to get their aggression out in the ring, not on the streets.



  • Susannah Wright

    As a teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools and resident in the community I teach I have experienced losing two students this year to murder; one near my house,as I live near my school. This violence is devastating so many wonderful youth, families, and neighborhoods. “Ceasefire” -your program really helped me pause and check my ignorance and “wanting to have it all go away” feelings. I want my fellow colleagues and neighbors in my block group to watch this program. Thank you for such a detailed, multiple perspective resource. Thank you.
    -Sue Wright, Minneapolis, MN

  • jan

    Watching the violence and the mob and gang mentality in the story was truly upsetting. Law enforcement was no where in sight. The segment of the little girl who wouldn’t identify her shooter even though she knows who shot her and the statement that the bullet is still in her leg illustrates two major problems with life in America today. The kid who saw nothing wrong with shooting the younger sister of someone who he dislikes is another major problem. Gangs that used to be limited to big cities on the east and west coast now permeate the midwest as well.

    As they point out, the root problem is lack of jobs or anything better to do with their time and the need for money to do anything in our society. As long as the people in charge think that life should be a series of “pay as you go” or drop money into the basket every time you try to do anything or go anywhere I don’t think its going to change. I guess we’ll continue to move toward a Mad Max world.

  • Dennis Fecko

    Having watched your program before, I was hoping for the insightful journalism I’ve experienced in the past with your program. This particular program, unfortunately, missed the mark entirely. Not one official, reporter, or interviewee was intelligent or courageous enough to talk about the real reason why violence in America has risen sharply in the last 40 years. I don’t blame the cops or public officials; their jobs would be in jeopardy if the truth was spoken aloud, but I do question the ethics of journalists when they tag along in this deadly game of willful ignorance.

    The Core Reason for this eruption in violence is simple. It is the same as the last explosion in gun violence we had in the 20′s & 30′s. Prohibition (aka The Drug War) has created a very profitable black market that inner city youth have a hard time not being attracted to. Just as gangsters in the 20′s had to protect their interests using violence, so too must our gangs today. Government officials and police support this proven failure of a policy, I’m assuming, for reasons of job security. Why do journalists avert their eyes and pens as well?

    I had to laugh in utter sadness when Federal grant money was spoken of as a means to deter this violence. Let me get this straight: we pay tax dollars to fight The Drug War, which creates a black market for drugs, which raises their price and increases their availability making them more lucrative to poor people then getting a job ever could, creating an atmosphere of violence which we have to spend more taxpayer dollars to try and prevent? And I’m supposed to believe that not one single journalist on your program was unable the connect the dots? Why not just wear a sign that says ‘We fully support the hypocritical and destructive War on Drugs’?

    Lack of jobs is not the root cause. Being a drug dealer IS a job. A very well paying if dangerous job.

    Once journalists have the cajones to speak up concerning the ill effects of The Drug War, we may have a hope of ending this madness that makes criminals of over half our populace, turns cities into war zones, overfills prisons with non-violent offenders, and supplies terrorists with a means to finance their operations. Until then, maybe you should just lay off stories that highlight your bias in favor of insane government policy.

  • Gary Ogletree

    Dennis, what you want is a series. The subject is too big for fifteen minutes. It’s now well beyond the drug scene. All those kids are learning to act like the older ones. Did you hear the kids laughing? Confrontations provide entertainment, a little spice, it is just as seductive as dope.

  • Gary Ogletree

    Some interesting people got to have their say. That made it a good fifteen minutes.

  • Zack Isaacs

    Dennis, Dennis, Dennis.

    I was expecting you to be a respectful, knowledgeable commenter. Instead, I saw comments that could be considered bitter, pretentious and wanted to downplay the masterful 15 minute report this young lady and her colleagues produced.

    Long form packages about this are hard to find, even here at our own PBS affiliate–WTTW–where I used to work. Most news stories on this topic are less than 5 minutes. And for a change, Ms. Guy focused on the SOLUTIONS rather than the PROBLEMS. One of those problems includes the abundance of people like you who criticize and belittle the efforts of the few folks here who care.

    Let me tackle your objections rather quickly because you seem to have more words than reasoning in your talking points:
    1) Lack of JOBS are a major cause in the violence. Being a drug dealer is not a job; It is an illegal choice to procure income. The last time I checked…nobody filled out an application to be a drug dealer. In that case, do murderers have jobs? No. When people think of jobs, they think of legitimate, contributory assignments that ADD to society, not take away from it.
    2) You didn’t talk about how those same tax dollars that you loathe paying help keep you safe in your community. If you couldn’t afford police officers, those same criminals would be terrorizing you.
    3) The ethics of journalists can never been taken into account by someone who has obviously NEVER visited an editorial meeting. They don’t usually hold them at Tea Party rallies.

  • Susan Torrico

    The explosive violence in Chicago’s South side was especially disturbing, because it mirrors the experiences our military are having in Iraq and Afghanistan. War is Hell…wherever it happens!

    The Chicago neighborhood residents who try to defuse the violence through interventions are operating very much like our bomb-defusing squads overseas. All of these people are risking their lives by stepping into an explosive and potentially deadly “minefield”. However, this similarity may offer an unexpected opportunity to help two struggling groups at the same time.

    We often see stories about how difficult it is for veterans, especially the bomb squads, to return to “normal life” when they come home to the US. These professionally trained military personnel have already served their country in a war zone. It doesn’t seem reasonable or fair to them or their families to expect them to be able to assimilate back into society after those experiences, without offering some substitute to help them adjust. Many sign up to return for additional tours of duty, because they seem to need that adrenalin rush and can only get it from dangerous situations.

    Why couldn’t they be reassigned in the US to defuse explosive situations in places like Chicago and other “hoods”? They should be able to quickly gain the trust and respect of gang members by relating stories about their experiences against our common enemy – known terrorist groups. It might help drive home the point that these inner city “wars” are also terrorist activities that are needlessly destroying lives right here on our home front.

    Possibly these young, unemployed gang members could be recruited to join a new paramilitary service specifically designed to stop the domestic terrorism here, too.

    The recruits should be paid to learn to control their anger. The returning veterans can provide the physical training and discipline needed to channel these misspent energies into something positive; such as: rebuilding our neighborhoods. The veterans, in turn, can put their skills to better use right here at home. There is more than enough violence elsewhere in the world – we certainly need less of it here in our cities.

    Something has to be done win this “war” against senseless violence! We need to start thinking NOW about what will happen when we pull our troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Hopefully this idea may be just what’s needed in the inner cities and could be a Win-Win for our troops and our youth.

  • Dennis

    Zack, Zack,zack

    Reading comprehension is a tough skill to learn for some. Let me help with yours.
    1. Never said being a drug dealer was a legitimate job. But, unlike a murderer, a drug dealer works physically at his task and receives monetary compensation. But you are wrong. Every person who has worked at a Liquor Store has filled out an application to be a drug dealer.
    2. Never once wrote that I “loathed” paying taxes, just mentioning the sad (read: sad) irony that accompanies paying taxes to prevent the violence incurred by programs we pay taxes for. Also, without cops, you wouldn’t have an enforceable drug war, which would lower the violence. You really believe these criminals are terrorists? Now whose being disrespectful?
    3. By this you imply that only journalists have the right to critique other journalists work. I think a majority of the world disagrees with you on this. Just because a few of the Tea Party rallies you’ve attended have had editorial meetings doesn’t mean you get to make irrelevant comments about the Tea Party.

    The Drug War is the problem. Ending it is the solution. The ‘solutions’ offered in the program are a band-aid on the effects of the Drug War. They may ease the symptoms, but won’t stop the problem from re-occurring. Journalists have always turned a blind eye towards the Drug War, and failing to mention it (read: mention, not get into a detailed history, etc.) in this piece was lame and cowardly. It really gets old and boring to watch them close their eyes every time they are presented with an opportunity to critique the Drug War.

    Zack, I can’t see how you think that criticizing a journalistic piece makes the problem worse. Explain that one to me, if you would. I’m getting pictures in my head of some dude reading my comment and, for some unknown reason, buying a gun and killing someone. WTF?

    Zack, you were expecting something else from me? Now that’s just weird, because that says you know me, or knew I was going to comment on the piece. Are you omniscient? If so, please help us. Our government really sucks.