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Group wants to bring CeaseFire to Elgin

Updated: February 23, 2013 6:27AM



ELGIN — A viewing last year of the 2011 documentary feature “The Interrupters” has renewed interest in bringing the group CeaseFire to Elgin.

Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, was in Elgin on Friday to talk about what the group does in Chicago and whether CeaseFire could help reduce gang violence in the city.

Hardiman was asked to come to Gail Borden Public Library by a coalition of residents and community groups interested in CeaseFire’s violence-reduction model, said Danielle Henson. A librarian at Gail Borden, Henson also is working on the project through the Church of the Brethren.

She and others viewed the documentary after the October 2011 shooting death of 5-year-old Eric Galarza Jr. of Elgin. In that shooting, officials said, it is believed the boy’s father was the target in an inter-gang dispute.

“I feel that this has been a culmination of many groups over many years … wanting to bring them here and looking at the overall situation of violence in Elgin,” Henson said of the CeaseFire interest.

According to Hardiman, much of what CeaseFire does in Chicago is working with gang leaders to stop retaliation shootings and train gang members and community leaders to look for options to solve problems other than reaching for a gun.

Whether that model would be helpful in Elgin is unknown, however, officials said.

There has been a dip in overall local gang violence in the past several years, noted Elgin police Lt. Jeff Adam, who attended the presentation. There were just two murders in Elgin in 2012 — one domestic-related and one gang-related. Both were solved quickly, Adam said.

“Gang-motivated crime decreased 9 percent from 2011 to 2012. Only seven gang-motivated shots-fired incidents were noted in 2012, down 58 percent from 2011 and down 81 percent over the past five years,” according to a statement released by Elgin police last week as part of its 2012 crime statistics.

Elgin’s Gang and Drug Task Force — made up of school, police and social service agencies — also has been addressing the issue for several years, Adam said.

While Elgin has seen a significant reduction in gang-related shootings, that doesn’t mean CeaseFire couldn’t make an impact here, Henson said.

“We — and the Elgin Police Department — are doing such a good job. This is not coming from a fear-based situation, but we would like to maintain or reduce the level of homicides” and secure that future for the community, Henson said.

Hardiman conceded Monday that Chicago has seen a resurgence of shootings and murders, leading to more than 500 homicides in 2012.

However, what is not reported are the times CeaseFire outreach has been able to stop the escalation of violence, he said.

In one case, a man who had been beaten at a bar went after not the men who beat him up but the men who recorded it on their cellphones and uploaded it onto the Internet, he said.

The man shot at the home of the two other men’s grandmother, and later torched the disabled woman’s car. CeaseFire, he said, was able to not just get the violence to end but the perpetrator to pay to replace the car.

What CeaseFire and its parent organization, the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, attempt to do is “understand that violence spreads like a disease” and breeds more violence, Hardiman said.

“It is a small percentage of the people committing the violence, but the entire community suffers,” he said.



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