Chicago violence prevention workers set lofty goals with increased funding

Scores of violence prevention workers across Chicago set out lofty goals Monday.

"I am more hopeful than ever that Chicago can become the safest city in America," said Jorge Matos, Director of Implementation for an effort called Scaling Community Violence Intervention for a Safer Chicago.

They are celebrating increased funding from private and public sources to boost the number of violence interrupters and fund services for alternatives to gangs and crime.

Tumbo Brooks, a violence prevention worker from the South Shore neighborhood, was among those taking part.

"It's stressful. Hardworking sometimes. But we know better so we must do better," said Brooks. "We need more help, more funding to curb the violence in the city."

Brooks is among the people who are the eyes and ears working to prevent violence on Chicago's toughest streets. On Monday, they gathered to hear some good news—a big increase in funding aimed at violence prevention from some of Chicago's biggest businesses, with a goal of raising more than $100 million.

"The amount of infrastructure we have in Chicago reaches about 17 percent of who needs to be reached," said Teny Gross, Executive Director of the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago. "We are now aiming for 50 to 75 percent in the next five years. So this is really ambitious."

Much of the increased funding will initially focus on four communities: Austin, Garfield Park, Little Village, and Humboldt Park.

In the first minutes of Monday morning in Humboldt Park, there was a mass shooting that left five people wounded. Fred Wallace is one of the violence prevention experts who responded to the scene.

"It was hectic. Everybody was everywhere," said Wallace. "Our job is to make sure there's no retaliation. So we have to be out there and talk to people and find out what happened."

37th Ward Alderman Emma Mitts also spoke to the violence prevention workers. Mitts said while the programs are needed, she also believes violence prevention begins at home.

"This is summertime. Make sure parents know where their children are," said Mitts. "You got to know where your children are. If you love them, you need to know where they're at."

But it's not just responding to crime and tamping down tempers. Much of the new funding will go to programs providing therapy, education, and job training.

"Most of the young people out here want change. They just don't know how. They don't know if they have an opportunity," said Gross. "If people come to you and want change, and not to offer it to them is a big mistake."