CeaseFire Illinois: Stopping Violence, One Life at a Time
By Ariyana Safarloo | May 29th, 2015
Chicago has a reputation for having some of the highest violent crime rates in the U.S. Many communities on its south and west sides are plagued by violence and suffer poverty, lack job opportunities, quality health care and a strong educational infrastructure. Englewood is one such community within Chicago.
CeaseFire Illinois (a Cure Violence partner) Case Manager, Tomas Ortiz understood that he needed to change his life if he was going to live in peace. He recounts how he hit a dead-end—“it was either jail or death.” Now Tomas Ortiz works with at-risk individuals through his work at CeaseFire. Youth like Stacy Lockhart are able to learn new coping skills in order to treat the underlying anger that often results in retaliatory violence, propelling the transmission of violence. “I’ve been here for three months and it’s the best experience of my life,” says Stacy—“when you see them (CeaseFire workers) out of it, you know that there is a way out.”
Andre Thomas went from Chicago’s streets to becoming a CeaseFire Illinois hospital responder. He now uses his influence to stop violence and motivate people to change. “People don’t talk about the violence that we got in front of and intervened and stopped,” Andre said. It is hard to fully assess the victories over violence Cure Violence workers like Andre have achieved. In reality, CeaseFIre staff continue to stop more conflicts and potential acts of violence than will ever be reported.
CeaseFire workers help to mediate conflicts, change community norms, and reform high risk individuals and groups. Use of the Cure Violence health model has repeatedly resulted in 41-73% drops in shootings and killings within program zones.