During a community meeting tonight at the South Side YMCA, Chicago police officers pleaded with young people to find safe activities and to cooperate with criminal investigations.
The meeting kicked off the police Grand Crossing District's campaign to reduce summer violence. The effort, called “Break the Code of Silence -- To Spare a Broken Heart,” has police and other leaders trying to impress upon people their responsibilities in keeping their neighborhoods safe.
“I don't think we have a police problem,” said Chicago hip-hop artist and songwriter Che “Rhymefest” Smith. “We have a people problem, a village problem, a neighborhood problem.”
Deetreena Perteet agreed, saying she had to aggressively campaign to get a witness to come forward in the Sept. 5, 2009 shooting that left her 16-year-old son, Ondelee, paralyzed. The alleged shooter is scheduled to stand trial later this month.
“I know it was plenty of people who saw my baby get shot,” Perteet said. “And I refused to let that kid be on the streets to hurt somebody else's kid.”
But the message was met with resistance as several youths said the fear of violent retaliation or of being labeled a snitch prevents them from wanting to cooperate. Instead, they suggested that police increase manpower and patrols in dangerous areas, as well as install more surveillance cameras.
Toward the end of her talk, Detective Germaine DuBose turned to the side and shrugged, seeming resigned.
“It's going to be tough,” she said. “It's bigger than a police problem. Until we start addressing that, I personally don't believe the police are going to be able to do it by themselves. Parents have to start getting involved in their children's lives.”
The message did resonate with some, however.
A 14-year-old who asked not to be named said that she would not hesitate to talk to police if she witnessed a crime and did not fear retaliation.
“If you do something wrong, you should serve the consequences that come with it,” she said. “There's no sugarcoating going to jail, and there's no sugarcoating killing somebody.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun