'Intervention specialists' hit the streets to help keep Chicago safe

A grass roots organization whose goal is to help mitigate and prevent shootings in two of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods hit the streets for another weekend wearing their bright green shirts and carrying with them the credibility that comes from living in those neighborhoods.

They are workers taking part in the Target 7-11 HIT program, which stands for Health Initiative Training. They are working in the 7th and 11th Districts, which encompass Englewood and Garfield Park.

“I want to actually engage those individuals and predict any violent activities,” said Outreach Supervisor Shelley Williams as he walked with Shanice Thompson, one of the workers.

On Friday, they were walking along 79th street near Ashland in an area known as Killer Ward, because of its violent reputation. One hundred and fifty workers in teams work eight hour shifts around the clock from midnight Thursday to midnight Sunday.

A similar number is working in Garfield Park.

“We trying to help prevent violence in our neighborhood,” specialist Jimmy Drain told a young man he stopped along Ashland Avenue.

FOX 32 walked with them through a gas station parking lot that they believe could be a hot spot for trouble.

FOX 32: So somebody drives by here and they see a rival out here, they may turn around and come back and do a drive by?

“Precisely. So with that said it's our job to really try to predict potentially lethal conflicts from occurring,” said Williams.

“I think they’re starting to get the message that, you know it’s not about violence, it’s not about shooting one another, it’s not about killing one another,” Drain said as he reflected on their month long effort that has had the workers out here every weekend in July.

Thompson stopped Englewood resident Nick Johnson who was walking along with his grandson. She gave him a pamphlet. Johnson thought what they were doing was a good thing, and that it could only help a neighborhood that is not often safe after dark.

“Well in the daytime I feel pretty decent, you know you still got to have your guard up because this is Chicago, it's Englewood,” Johnson said.

These intervention specialists are paid $100 a day through a private grant. They try to educated people about survival tips.

“Stop putting your business on Facebook, stop hanging in the parking lot knowing police are going to mess with you,” Thompson told two young women.

She, like many other workers, are motivated by their past and the desire to make a difference in the neighborhood where they grew up.

“I lost five friends in one month, that's too many friends, so if I feel like somebody trying to bring the shooting down why not, let’s bring the shooting down,” Thompson said.

She and the others believe they can help police make a difference, and they have their supporters.

But this is the last weekend the program will operate unless the private grant is renewed, or another source comes through.