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CeaseFire's methods draws Evanston's interest

Monday, April 08, 2013
Evanston Review
by Bob Seidenberg

Evanston is drawing support in its fight against violence from a Chicago-based organization which uses “interrupters” and other strategies to stem violence on the street.

At an April 4 community meeting forum, some 100 people, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, State Rep. Laura Fine and others gathered at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, to hear more from CeaseFire Illinois representatives about their model to divert violence.

The organization uses a model based on public health and science to detect and interrupt potential infectious diseases, only applying those methods to the street.

The organization makes heavy use of ex-offenders to “engage and interrupt” those involved in a cycle of violence, to get them to consider other alternatives, said Marcus McAllister, the organization’s national training director, told his audience April 4th.

The organization’s director, Tio Hardiman, also attended.

Hardiman had spoken about the CeaseFire system in a presentation at Evanston Township High School on Feb. 27.

McAllister said the group’s system includes continuous diligence. CeaseFire reacts immediately to violent events and shootings, underscoring the tragedy of the event.

In the interrupt stage, outreach workers receive training on how to work with people on the street, seeking to change behavior modes and norms.

In many cases, violent shootings can be the outgrowth of a personal slight, rather than fights over gang turf, CeaseFire leaders said.

“If you don’t continue to work on the way they perceive violence then it’s like a temporary Band Aid,” he said.

In an ongoing effort, the group interacts with family members, peers, and members of the faith community and others seeking to get out its non-violent message, he said.

Out in the community, the group has been active in staging barbeques, pressing for more recreation alternatives, such as midnight basketball, and sponsoring peace summits.

On a personal level, “we ask the kids all the time, what is it you want?” he said.

CeaseFire received a $1 million grant from Chicago last year as that city searched for unorthodox solutions to stem the cycle of gang violence.

Evanston currently has no contractual relationship with CeaseFire, confirmed Tisdahl, but the city is drawing on some of the strategies the organization uses.

Kevin Brown, the city’s assistant youth and young adult program manager, who has two full-time staff members, said Hardiman has been very open providing training for staff and consultation through his much larger organization.

Hardiman indicated he has followed events in Evanston, including the shooting of 14-year-old Dajae Coleman, a fatal shooting victim last year.

“Right now Evanston has to mobilize the community,” he said.

Hardiman was asked about the group’s relationship with police and whether there are any conflicts. “The police do the lion share of the work,’’ he said. “We’re just a parallel approach.”

Tisdahl also expressed appreciation at the assistance offered by the organization. Meanwhile, she said the city would continue to stress the need for need for workforce development and summer employment as other tools in the fight against violence.

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