Chicago Organization Uses Ex-Gang Members, Convicts To ‘Interrupt’ Violence, But Will It Work?

CeaseFire

“We took a hit.”

Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois and founder of the Violence Interrupter Initiative, spoke with NewsOne exclusively about Chicago’s outsize crime rate in 2012. He also weighed in on the national spotlight and outpouring of grief upon the news of the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut at a time when urban areas like Chicago are rife with murders.

Indeed, Chicago made headlines across the globe, after it ended 2012 with 513 homicides, a 15 percent increase from 448 homicides in 2011, according to RedEye, which tracks crime in Chicago. That year was the first time Chicago crossed that homicide threshold in four years when the city reached 512.

Hardiman’s CeaseFire Illinois sees violence as a disease in the community that needs curing. CeaseFire actively looks to “detect” the violence and then “interrupt” its course by “identifying individuals involved in transmission, and changing social norms of the communities where it occurs.”
CeaseFire purposefully uses former gang members, drug dealers, and convicts to mediate and cure the violence.

“Chicago had the response of Sandy Hook when Derrion Albert was beaten to death outside of Fenger High School in 2009,” Hardiman said. “We had worldwide attention on Chicago. The attention was good, but at the same time what good is the attention when it doesn’t produce results? Will there be changes after Sandy Hook? Will there be changes with sensible gun laws? Will there be changes in violence overall? The verdict is still out.

“Violence has become acceptable in Chicago,” Hardiman continued. ” We have to get that segment of the population to say, ‘Violence should not be acceptable. We’re not giving in to that anymore. It has to stop.’ That’s what we need more so than media attention in our communities.”

Hardiman knows a thing or two about violence. The community organizer was featured in the 2011 documentary “The Interrupters,” which is about violence interrupters on Chicago’s South Side. Amid great fanfare last summer, the Department of Public Health gave his anti-violence group, which is staffed mostly by ex-felons and former gang members, a $1 million grant in an effort to help curb violence.

Read the entire interview at NewsOne.