Residents in the Englewood police district celebrated the Fourth of July weekend like most in Chicago.
Some had barbecues. They listened to music. Children rode their bicycles up and down their South Side blocks and played basketball in the middle of the street.
But what stood out was this: Not a single person was shot there during the long holiday weekend, a rare feat for an area long known for its rampant and stubborn gun violence.
During last year’s July 4 weekend, the police district — which covers the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods — was one of the most violent of all 22 districts, with at least 10 people shot. Three of them died.
Anti-violence group “7-11 H.I.T.” walking through the Englewood neighborhood
This year, according to Chicago police officials, the district experienced no shootings during a period from Thursday afternoon through early Monday in which the rest of Chicago saw at least 65 people shot, 10 of them fatally. A sliver of West Englewood that is in the adjoining Chicago Lawn police district experienced one of those shootings, where a man was wounded.
Why the Englewood district experienced such relative calm was unclear. But police boosted their presence, and mothers and ministers, as well as others, were out in force in an effort to stem violence. No one took the upbeat results as a long-term victory over the significant challenges there.
This year, Chicago police extended the shifts of thousands of officers from 8 1/2 to 12 hours, allowing more officers to work on the street than usual. If they weren’t sitting at intersections or moving slowly through the blocks, they were elsewhere in the neighborhoods.
Christine Mitchell, 49, celebrated the holiday on the front porch of her family home in the 6400 block of South Hoyne Avenue. At the end of the block, a poster affixed to a traffic sign read, “Kids Matter. Put the Guns Down. Don’t shoot — Chicago, stand up!”
“I’m surprised,” Mitchell said Monday afternoon. “I mean … who got shot? Who got killed? … It’s a blessing that no one did.”
Autry Phillips likes to think part of the reason Englewood and West Englewood were so quiet was because of the 150 men and women he had on the streets handing out leaflets and talking to residents about staying peaceful.
The Target Area Development Corp. received a $400,000 grant to train residents on conflict resolution and how to manage emotional and tense confrontations, Phillips said. The organization used the money to pay 300 residents to spend the weekend walking blocks, checking in on gatherings and spreading a message to keep the guns down.
This group of residents was called “7-11 H.I.T.,” short for Health Informed Training Intervention. The group focused its efforts in the Englewood district (7th) on the South Side and the violence-plagued Harrison district (11th) on the West Side.
“Imagine walking down West 63rd and South Morgan Street with six guys talking the same, looking the same and saying, ‘Stop the violence in our community.’ Imagine seeing it all weekend long,” Phillips said. “Then you see these people are serious. They humanize what has been happening. They show that we have all got to be upset when someone gets shot.”
At midnight Friday, the group set out in Englewood and walked the community block by block, Phillips said. The night started out warm and slow, he said. As daybreak approached Monday, group members realized it had stayed that way all weekend.
Residents in the program learned how to defuse conflict before it gets violent, he said. One of the group’s members, Anthony Jones, walked through the community with three other men throughout the weekend, looking specifically for males ages 17 to 30, and urging them not to shoot anyone.
“Strictly, it was about making contact and making people aware,” Jones said Monday.
On West 75th Street and South Stewart Avenue, a group of mothers in bright pink T-shirts set up a grill Friday and invited passers-by to share a hot dog or a piece of barbecue. They sat on the corners in lawn chairs chatting with residents and poking their noses in the goings-on around them all weekend. For the grass-roots group Mothers Against Senseless Killings, just being there was a strategy to stop the killing, said Tamar Manasseh, who founded the group.
“Our plan is to be in the moment and be seen,” she said. “That’s why we wear bright pink T-shirts. So you can see me and I can see you. No one wants to shoot and get caught immediately. There are too many eyes here because we are making ourselves visible. That’s all it takes — too many eyes.”
Manasseh, 37, and her band of nine mothers don’t live in Englewood. But they heard there was going to be a retaliation shooting related to a homicide and jumped into action last week. The women said they use their nurturing and motherly instincts to connect with the young boys and alleged gang members they encounter. They bring a grill and cook food to hand out. One day, they made sandwiches.
Every half-hour they’d walk in groups around an eight-block radius. By Monday morning, they were rejoicing.
“With all hell breaking loose everywhere else in the city, it felt good to know nothing was happening here,” Manasseh said. “This is the place where it was supposed to happen, but it didn’t, and I’d like to believe it’s because we are out here. It feels really good to know you did something to help and it may have worked.”
Source: Chicago Tribune