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Rally Targets Youth Violence As Crime Rate Drops

Chicago Sun-Times via YellowBrix

October 04, 2010

CHICAGO – As Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis released preliminary crime statistics Sunday morning showing a 2.3 percent decline in murders, downtown and North Side community groups prepared to rally for action to stop violence against youth.

Weis said there were 343 murders committed from January through September, eight fewer than last year at this time. The drop puts the city on pace with 2007, a year in which the murder total was the lowest in the city since 1965, Weis said.

Overall crime in the city dropped 4.5 percent, he said. In nearly every category, crime was down, and for the 21st straight month, crime dropped overall and in violent and property offenses.

Violent crime fell more than 11 percent in September.

“I am encouraged by the overall numbers and the significant drop in violent crime,” Weis said. “But I’m certainly not satisfied. Residents should not fear violence in their communities, and we refuse to accept violence as a way of life in any part of our city.”

A similar message was delivered by organizers and attendees at a “Silence the Violence” rally in support of youth Sunday afternoon.

“People say let’s hope it doesn’t hit my block, or hit my house,” said St. Sabina’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who addressed the rally in the courtyard of Fourth Presbyterian Church downtown. "If it hits any house, if it hits any child, we all have to mourn, and we all have to be outraged.

“I’m glad the [violent crime] statistics are down,” he said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview. “I don’t want us to get excited because it’s better. We get excited when it’s over. I’m not going to be happy until the statistics are zero.”

Pfleger shared stories at the rally of children asking him to pray that they don’t get shot going to school. Joseph Walker, grandfather of late honor student Derrion Albert, brutally beaten to death by a mob of youths as he walked home from school last year, told of children looking out the window at school trying to find a safe route home.

“That’s a tragedy,” he said.

Mark Walsh of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, told rally attendees that each year, 3,000 children die from gun violence and 3,500 children are expelled for bringing a gun to school.

The rally sends a message that downtown and North Side groups don’t view violence against youth as a West Side or South Side problem but one that hurts the entire state, said Pfleger. It’s a problem that requires the entire community to play a role in solving, from police to parents, to churches, to legislators to businesses, he said.

It also requires helping change the mind-set of many young people, said Tio Hardiman of CeaseFire Chicago, who addressed the group. He said CeaseFire successfully mediated roughly 320 conflicts that could have led to violence from January through August this year.

“It’s about changing the thinking as it relates to violence,” he said in an interview after the rally. “Too many people think that violence is OK and that it’s the only way to respond to petty conflict. CeaseFire is all about behavioral change.”

Attendees at the event were encouraged to attend a Springfield rally Nov. 17 and support groups working to stop the violence.

Other crime statistics released Sunday showed:

• Criminal sexual assaults fell more than 9 percent.

• Aggravated battery declined 7.7 percent.

• Robberies and aggravated assaults showed double-digit drops.

• Vehicle thefts increased 22.3 percent, but they are the lowest since the same nine-month period in 2002.

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