Chicago has entered into an agreement with a crime-fighting group that seeks to interrupt violence before it escalates, the city said on Tuesday, as it battles to reduce a soaring murder rate, according to an article from Reuters.
Chicago, the third largest U.S. city, has agreed to pay $1 million to CeaseFire to focus on "highest risk" individuals, such as recent victims of violence and those with a history of violence, to stop them from committing crimes, the article says.
The agreement with the organization is in response to a murder rate 37 percent higher year-to-date from the same time period last year – at 250 murders compared to 182 in 2011, Reuters reports. Chicago's murder rate has outpaced New York City, which has more than double the population of Chicago.
An initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, CeaseFire is a non-government organization that claims to take a public health approach to violence prevention, the article says.
It sees violence as a learned behavior that can be prevented through behavior change for highest risk individuals, changing community norms and other by means.
Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, said CeaseFire tries to "get out in front of conflicts" before they escalate. In a recent neighborhood incident, a 10-year-old was beaten up by a 12-year-old, and the conflict between the two families grew to the point where cousins started showing up with guns until CeaseFire representatives intervened, according to Reuters.
Although CeaseFire has received state and county funding in the last, this is the first time they will be working directly for the city, the article says.
Some Chicago police officers are skeptical of CeaseFire because it uses ex-felons to talk people out of violent acts, and a handful of them have been charged with crimes while working with the group, according to the article
Overall crime in Chicago is down by 11 percent from the same period last year. But officials say years of targeting by law enforcement has shattered Chicago's once-stable gang structure, and the jump in murders reflects a power struggle between the smaller gangs for control over territories as small as one or two blocks.
Pat Camden, spokesman for the Chicago police union, said there are around 600 different factions in the city's neighborhoods.
Another possible contributing factor to the murder spike is unusually warm weather at the beginning of the year, when frigid temperatures usually keep violence down, the article says.
The CeaseFire agreement will put additional CeaseFire workers in two high-crime districts under the pilot program, which starts July 13.