CHICAGOLAND: Rahm's $3 million anti-violence program backfiring

Rahm's $3 million contract with ex-gang members to stop the violence in Chicago wasn't so smart. Photo: AP

CHICAGO, March 9, 2013 ― Rahm Emanuel’s $3 million anti-violence program was supposed to defuse Chicago’s exploding murder rate. But has it? Despite the PR spin from the Mayor’s office, the numbers don’t lie.

In summer 2012, the glare of the national spotlight was on Chicago. The city’s out-of-control murder rate demanded a response. Mayor Emanuel was under intense public pressure to show he was taking immediate action. School-age children like seven year-old Heaven Sutton were being caught in the bloody gang crosshairs. The body count was mounting. Chicago was desperate for an answer to the violence, and the funerals, and the hopelessness.  

It still is.

So Mayor Emanuel signed a three year multi-million dollar contract with CeaseFire, the anti-violence group made up of ex-cons, to “interrupt” violence in Chicago’s high crime-addled areas of Woodlawn and North Lawndale.

Under the controversial CeaseFire “model,” workers attempt to mitigate or “interrupt” violence on the street before it turns violent. Because many of the “workers” are ex-gang members, the group argues that it has street credibility to mediate that police officers don’t.

But, according to numbers released this week, that model appears to be failing.

From October through February, North Lawndale had three murders and seven shootings. The previous year, there was one murder and five non-fatal shootings. In the Woodlawn beats, there were three murders and seven shootings, compared with four killings and 12 shootings a year earlier.

The figures represent a zero sum with little to no improvement in these areas.

Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Chicago, says that there were no homicides in beats where CeaseFire worked in Woodlawn in January and February of this year. But a review of EveryBlock source data also indicates that there were no murders in Woodlawn for the same period last year.

Citywide, January posted the highest murder rates in a decade. But desperate city officials touted February numbers, which dropped to 14 homicides, down from 29 last year.

Little of this is good news for Emanuel or Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who continue to face mounting criticism for the city’s high murder rates.  

The numbers also raise questions about the $3 million contract with CeaseFire.

In November, a ranking police official expressed “buyer’s remorse” over the CeaseFire contract and said the group had no “significant success stories.” The source also said police were not receiving reports from CeaseFire on their mediations.

“You can’t wait two weeks later and tell us, ‘Oh yeah, we intervened in that.’ We need specifics and time lines,” said the source, who requested anonymity.  

From 2004 to 2006, CeaseFire received more than $16 million in funds, including $11 million from the State of Illinois (Source: Auditor General of Illinois). In 2007, then Gov. Blagojevich decreased CeaseFire’s budget to $3.2 million.

Later in 2007, the group lost all of its state funding after an Illinois audit determined that CeaseFire had failed to account for the millions of dollars it had spent over a three-year period.

The group’s reliance on ex-cons represents a serious problem for law enforcement. In the past six years, six CeaseFire workers have been charged with crimes.

A Black Disciples gang member, Rodney “Hot Rod” Phillips, was caught selling heroin and charged with drug dealing. Phillips was on CeaseFire’s payroll from 2009 through May 2011.

“Interrupters” earn anywhere between $30,000 to $45,000 to mediate “conflicts.”

Harold Martinez, another street worker for CeaseFire in 2007, was caught selling cocaine to a gang member-turned-FBI-informant and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Martinez and Phillips are among 300 ex-felons hired by CeaseFire over a ten year period.  

CeaseFire representatives say that those charged with crimes represent less than 2 percent of their work force. But the practice continues to concern Chicago police, who say the millions of dollars being given to CeaseFire would be better spent hiring more cops.

Unfortunately, Chicago also has a unique history of gang members receiving state and federal taxpayer funding.  

In the 1970s and 1980s, Chicago gang leader Jeff Fort of the El Rukn street gang, received more than $927,000 in taxpayer funds to teach gang members job skills. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for misuse of federal funds when the feds discovered the money was being used for drug operations. He is in prison today serving an 80 year sentence for conspiring to commit terrorist acts against the U.S.

Since 2004, Ceasefire has received more than $20 million in state and federal funds to “interrupt” violence. Whether taxpayers will receive more bang for their buck this time around remains to be seen. 

READ MORE Chicago politics at Bill Kelly’s Truth Squad

William J. Kelly is an Emmy award-winning TV producer and conservative columnist. He is also a contributor to the American Spectator and He is a native from Chicago’s Southside.

Email questions to him at Find him on Facebook/WilliamjpkellyRead more of Bill Kelly’s Truth Squad in The Communities at the Washington Times

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William Kelly


Conservative commentator, satirist, and radio talk show host William J. Kelly pens the “Kelly Truth Squad” and “The Tea Party Report” for the Washington Times Communities and is a contributor to the American Spectator and Kelly is also a producer of Emmy award-winning TV and received an Emmy nomination himself for outstanding achievement on-camera. He was previously the Executive Director of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, a taxpayer watchdog group. He is a native of Chicago’s South side. For more information, visit

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