Sending out outreach workers–some of them ex-convicts or former gang members–to lead marches, hold block parties and offer residents alternatives to gunfire, a program called CeaseFire had some success in tempering violence in key Chicago neighborhoods, community leaders say, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Now, with Chicago homicides outpacing last year’s and the usual summer spike in violence on its way, CeaseFire plans to expand into other city neighborhoods. “There’s no doubt the whole effort is an uphill fight,” said Gary Slutkin, director of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and founder of CeaseFire. “But we’re committed to working to change the way people think and to show them there are alternatives to using guns to resolving disputes.”
Started in 2000 with a goal of reducing the number of shootings in Chicago, CeaseFire targeted 10 neighborhoods initially. So far, the group is working extensively in four of them. In West Garfield Park, where CeaseFire started, there were 43 shootings in 1999 and 14 the next year, a 67 percent drop.
CeaseFire operates on a $3 million budget, but Slutkin said he needs $15 million to $20 million to hire more workers, paid in the “high $20,000 range.” His goal is to have 200 to 300 workers in the 10 neighborhoods. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently secured $450,000 in federal funds for the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention for 2003 and plans to seek funding for the group again