chicago news

Violence in Chicago has changed. An outreach group explains why and what needs to be done

As Chicago stares down the Fourth of July holiday weekend, with 11 people killed as of Friday afternoon, an organized group of mothers, fathers, uncles and brothers questions the usefulness of crime statistics and cautions that gangs are different than they used to be.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Editor's Note: Chicago Police Superintendent and Mayor Brandon Johnson provided an update after a violent Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. The latest updates can be found here. Our original story continues below.

The Fourth of July long weekend has so far been a violent one in Chicago with 11 people killed and 55 shot by late Friday afternoon.

Just after 6:15 on the morning of July 4, a house on the 7100 block of South Woodlawn was the target of a brutal attack that left three people dead, including an 8-year-old, and two more children critically wounded.

Wearing the bright orange T-shirt of his group, Operation Neighborhood Safety, Sam Binion was on location, reaching out to family members.

"It's important, because we have to protect our community," Binion said.

Operation Neighborhood Safety is a small group of mothers, fathers, uncles and brothers hitting the streets every day.

Former Chicago Police Officer Matt Brandon is a member. "We have to be the faces that respond, because the people who live in the community, they know us. They see us. They believe in us," he said.

And ONS knows it's a different world than the one they grew up in. Organized gangs are now splinters and factions and are more violent than ever. Brandon said old-style street gangs no longer exist.

"Right now, a gang can be a block of people who don't like another block of people," he said.

The violence, Brandon cautioned, is often the result of threats and taunts made on social media.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Mayor Brandon Johnson said, "We are devastated by the recent violence that has left our city in a state of grief and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and communities impacted by these recent events."

Johnson also promised more cops and that an emergency services assistance center would be set up Tuesday at Fosco Park.

Binion said there is a lack of understanding at City Hall about the needs of his community. "The mayor ain’t living what we live," he said.

The group also questions the usefulness of crime statistics, like those released Friday by Chicago Police. They show, from January to June, homicides are down more than 12% over the same period last year.

"That doesn’t really matter to the communities where one incident like this makes all that null and void," Matt Brandon said.

Sam Binion said neighbors have to help neighbors in much the same way his group helped former inmate George Reed turn his life around. Reed now owns a landscaping business and employs at-risk neighborhood kids.

"I am just trying to keep the kids out of trouble because it was hard for me," Reed said.

Building on small success stories, but doing it consistently is the only way Binion and his group said they can stop violence before it takes away another generation of young people.

Contact Us