An anti-violence group was defending itself Friday after a report detailing the arrest of several former employees threatened to damage its reputation and additional funding.
CeaseFire Illinois said a Chicago Sun-Times report highlighted a very small number of problems within their organization and doesn't tell the real story of the organization and its accomplishments.
"We have a low margin for error," said Tio Hardiman, the group's director. "They break the law, they got to go."
At least six employees of CeaseFire Illinois have been charged with crimes over the last five years while on the organization’s payroll, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The ex-offenders, trained to "interrupt" potential violence, were charged with crimes including drug trafficking, drug possession, and weapon possessions while working with the group.
But Hardiman said that report isn't entirely accurate. Reached via telephone, Hardiman said that while it's true three individuals working with CeaseFire were arrested for crimes in 2007, the three others cited in the Sun-Times report were either fired or not working with the organization at the time of their arrests.
He was adamant about the group’s mission and said he was surprised him that the Sun-Times would run the story when they have employed hundreds with minimal internal issues. He said what they do matters in high-risk areas throughout the city.
"Who else can you hire to go into a dark basement where you know guys are angry and popping pills, and talk to those guys about not committing violence?" he said.
The Sun-Times' report comes at a critical time for CeaseFire. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Supt. Garry McCarthy earlier this week announced plans of a new strategy that will include working with CeaseFire.
Emanuel talked about strategies to combat the city’s gang violence Friday and said CeaseFire could be a "good partner."
But he said the group won't be getting a "blank check" from the city.
"Garry McCarthy and [First Deputy] Al Wysinger are working with the CeaseFire leadership to come with a Chicago-centric CeaseFire agreement that makes sure we’re focused on fighting crime -- not committing it," the mayor said.
Chicago-based CeaseFire launched in Garfield Park in 2000 and has since garnered 16 community partners.