Block Clubs fighting crime

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Rampant loitering, gangs and drug dealing had been an all too familiar sight for years throughout Annie Glenn’s neighborhood.

Rampant loitering, gangs and drug dealing had been an all too familiar sight for years throughout Annie Glenn’s neighborhood.

“It was pretty bad,” Glenn, an Austin resident told the Defender. “We had lost our block.”

That all changed in 2008 when Glenn and her neighbors decided to form the Power of Peace Block Club in an effort to stifle the crime and provide a safe environment for residents along Chicago Avenue to Laramie.

Grassroots initiatives some conclude are one of the few effective strategies to combat the violence that has resulted in senseless killings, bloodshed and fear. Black Star Project founder Phillip Jackson believes it’s equipping the parents, not police, who can ultimately make a difference.

“The police can’t stop the violence,” Jackson said, who leads an innovative program that attempts to foster parent engagement through Parent University, mentoring and youth enrichment and early education. “Police are bad at stopping violence. If you don’t work with the parents, you can’t stop the violence.”

“We must invest in the parents,” he continued, while also stressing the importance of quality, early education and economic alternatives that lure individuals away from a destructive life of crime. “They are the best deterrents of violence.”

The tedious home-by-home approach is something National Action Network Chicago Vice President Floyd Davis understands is a catalyst to bring forth meaningful behavioral change in historically crime-ridden sections of the city.

“There needs to be a complete re-tooling of leadership in our communities,” Davis said. “The block-by-block formula can work. The problem is that different blocks have different issues.”

Davis, a longtime gang intervention specialist, has been actively involved in the Woodlawn Battle on Wax for Peace that uses music to engage at-risk youth in mentorship and skill development to end violent behavior. The non-profit organization encourages communication, rap album creation and healthy competition instead of risky oft-dealing alternatives that lead to incarceration or worse.

As a result of Davis’ involvement, he’s witnessed bonds formed and young people exposed to a greater purpose.

“Our main concern should be youth violence and stopping it,” he said. “It is about creating another image for our youth to follow.”

That’s exactly what 79th Street Block Club Association member John Shabazz is doing.

The Auburn-Gresham resident of 40 years can, on most days, be found speaking to teens just outside his home, pointing them in the direction of job and trade opportunities that arise. When Shabazz is not taking young people under his wing, he, along with others, are surveying the neighborhood for potential troublemakers and alerting authorities. That, he said, is one of the reasons crime and violence in his area took a significant dip.

“We know when things get out of hand to call the police,” Shabazz said. “It’s better now.”

Using such an approach can yield positive results, said Glenn.

“(The gangs) know when we see them we will call 911,” she said in reference to the block club’s phone tree system. “If you want to keep your community safe, this (block club) is a good idea. Everyone can do a little more.”

Copyright 2012 Chicago Defender

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