Aldermen want $5M to fund anti-violence program 'CeaseFire'

FOX 32 NEWS - Four members of the City Council's Black Caucus want five million tax dollars for a group of so-called "violence interrupters." 

The aldermen say CeaseFire's anti-violence message is a proven way to reduce shootings and killings in hard-hit neighborhoods. But others are deeply skeptical.

Rain and sleet fell as LeVon Stone showed FOX 32 a stretch of 95th Street. It's where he grew up, NOT poor and NOT from a broken home. But he ignored his family, choosing instead drug-dealing gangsters in the Chicago Housing Authority's Lowden Homes.

After multiple convictions and time behind bars, Stone was shot at the age of 18 and left partially paralyzed.

“I was living in the moment at the time. When you're living in the moment, you're not looking at the big picture, the consequences,” Stone said.

The terrible consequences he's endured, Stone says, lend real street cred to his anti-violence message.

The intellectual founding father of this sort of street outreach is Dr. Gary Slutkin. A native North Sider, he began "Cure Violence," with affiliates now in New York and Los Angeles, both cities with far less violence than Chicago.

Slutkin claims two years of budget stalemate in Springfield, which killed funding for Cease Fire and other social service programs, is linked to Chicago's horrifying surge in killings, nearly 800 last year. 

“Cure Violence community groups were defunded from 14 communities to one community. That was when the epidemic rose up and has been increasing ever since,” Slutkin said.

That one community? The 4th Police District, which Slutkin's numbers claim had a large decline in shootings and killings.

It's why four aldermen are now asking for $5 million for the program. But Mayor Emanuel has other priorities. His spokesman emailed the following: "We could not agree more that the funds should be used to help improve public safety. That's why (the City of Chicago) will expand the police body camera program citywide, rehab vacant homes and create 200 jobs in distressed neighborhoods, and invest in education and jobs for residents in every part of the city."

Sources told FOX 32 News that city and state officials may fund other anti-violence outreach programs. One claimed CeaseFire workers "actively undermine Chicago Police" and allegedly "tell residents not to cooperate with officers." They say CeaseFire "is not willing to be accountable."

Not true, says LeVon Stone.

“I'm asking them to give us the opportunity to show what it is we're doing, show what the work really does, how it's really done, the documentation that we really have,” Stone said.

Stone and Slutkin claim an investment of perhaps $25 million a year in "violence interrupters" could, over several years, reduce Chicago's annual homicides from nearly 800 now to about 160, which would match the national murder rate.

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