CHICAGO – Within 24-hours 8-people were shot in gang-related drive-by shootings. Ten year-old Nikwell Fowler was near her home, 12-year-old Samir Kahn was at the corner grocery, and 18-year-old Terrell Bosley was in a church parking lot. They were all innocent bystanders and they were all killed in the crossfire of Chicago gang violence.
It’s not an unusual situation and all too often the victims are innocent school-age children. Dozens of kids have been shot and killed in Chicago in the past few ears, and this one has proved to be no exception. Chicago leads the nation with 36 youth homicides this school year.
Now in the city’s toughest neighborhoods the struggle to stop the killing is taking hold. Ceasefire is an organization that looks at the spread of violence as a doctor might look at the spread of a disease and it seeks to put preventative measures in place.
“We’re immediately interrupting conflicts and we’re immediately working with the highest risk people,” says Gary Slutkin the director of Ceasefire. “Ceasefire places what it calls…’interrupters’…on the streets… People like….Alex Oliver…who warn against deceptive appeal of the gangs”
Olivera spent 19 years in prison for involvement in a gang killing, now he works to keep others safe. “The false sense of family hood that’s the lie, you know, ‘cause if you really are my brother, if you really do care about me, you wouldn’t want me to commit crimes,” Olivera explained. “When you build friendship with a youth and he trusts you, it’s hard to lose them.”
The department of justice has found that some ceasefire neighborhoods has seen a drop in shootings, a decrease in retaliatory murders and an increase in kids leaving gangs. However, Alex Olivera believes there is still a long way to go.