“We have to put a stake in the ground and say we are going to create a world where our kids can go out in the park after school, and we have to feel more comfortable calling the police when something is happening,” Zopp said. If the community can’t do this, “we are letting our children down,” she said.
Zopp, who also is a member of the Chicago School Board, said there are no simple answers to the problems that give rise to violence such as Hadiya’s shooting death the death.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also talked about Hadiya’s death during a separate Wednesday press conference.
“If anybody has any information, you are not a snitch, you’re a citizen,” the mayor said according to an article published in the Chicago Tribune. “You’re a good citizen in good standing if you help.”
The 42 deaths so far this year is the highest monthly total since 2002 according to police statistics. Those numbers come, in spite of the fact that gun stores are banned in the city.
“There is a ban in Chicago, but just across the street in neighboring suburbs, there are stores where you can go in and buy large numbers of weapons. You could sell them out of the trunk of the car,” says the Rev. Ira Acree, an anti-violence activist.
Acree, pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church on the west side, has been at the graveside with church members as they have buried their dead – many of them young and struck down by bullets or other weapons.
“In 2003, one of our members, 15-year-old Maurice Brown Jr., was gunned down, and to this day, they have not found his killer,” Acree told BlackAmericaweb.com. “He was a promising football player, a scholar. Colleges were already looking at him. He lost his life.”
The solution to the problem will take time, Acree said, pointing to high poverty, the deterioration of the family, the city’s illegal drug economy and unemployment as root causes.
Zopp said the unemployment rate for teens in Chicago is more than 70 percent and that African American and urban teens are disproportionately represented in those numbers. If the teens are not employed, they are more likely to get in trouble and “some will turn to illegal means to get money,” she said.
The Chicago Urban League has developed several programs to help young people get back on track, she said. The organization has also arranged forums where young people talk with lawmakers and policy makers to educate them on the needs of youths, Zopp said.
Richard Whooten, a Chicago area police officer who has served in the military, is taking the community education approach to addressing the problem.
“I’m training citizens in neighborhood watch groups how to be more aware,” Wooten told BlackAmericweb.com. He started his free training to community residents in October and said he has trained 15 to 20 people on the Southside.
“We have to save our communities,” Whooten said.