“Stop Killing People” in Chicago

It’s the slogan of CeaseFire in Chicago, where gun violence has claimed the lives of close to two dozen school children already in 2008.

Is gang violence a disease? There’s no doubt that its deadly effects are rampant among America’s urban youth, as Alex Kotlowitz reports in his riveting article in the May 4 New York Times Magazine.

Dr. Gary Slutkin, founder of CeaseFire, calls violence an epidemic, and he’s seeking a cure on the grass-roots level.

CeaseFire, an initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention founded in 1995, takes a community-based public-health approach, working with Chicago leaders, clergy, community, and law enforcement on strategies for violence reduction.

As in many other cities, violence overall is down in Chicago — but not violence affecting children. In 2007, 32 children were killed. Often, they’re caught in the cross-fire of gang warfare.

It’s gotten so bad that Chicago parents have banded together to form Operation Safe Passage to escort kids to and from school.

It’s a national scandal that we’re failing to protect our children. While individual communities and groups, like Slutkin’s in Chicago and Safe & Sound Community Partners in Milwaukee, are taking violence-reduction strategies to the streets of their cities’ toughest neighborhoods, we continue to lose innocent children and to allow kids to grow up feeling vulnerable the moment they step our of their homes.

What strategies work? Which cities are saying no to the gun madness? Share what you know about how to end the epidemic with Rooflines‘ readers.

Alice Chasan served as editor and associate publisher of Shelterforce from 2007 to 2008.


  1. Sherwood Ross draws parallels between killings in Sadr City (Iraq) and killings in U.S. cities like Chicago in a powerful op-ed — see

    He points out that residential segregation is at the heart of this phenomenon we see in our cities, and bad schools and poor employment opportunities contribute to it. The immorality of our government’s indifference to these problems in our cities carries forward to its actions in the cities of foreign lands.


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