Man and Chicago graffiti

The Numbers Are Staggering.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 762 people were killed and more than 4,000 people were shot in 2016. Even President Donald Trump tweeted that federal help may be necessary.

“If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!” 9:25 PM – 24 Jan 2017

Thought About Jumping Into the Fight? Tio Hardiman knows how.

Chicago is not alone when it comes to record-breaking crime. The murders of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando made international news. According to the website, other cities with a significant increase in the murder rate are: San Antonio (61%), Memphis (56%), Louisville (44%), Phoenix (36%), and Las Vegas (31%). Those cities, not including Orlando, were responsible for 76% of the rise in murder among big cities last year.

Just because the numbers seem insurmountable doesn’t mean local citizens have stopped fighting for their cities. Tio Hardiman, the Executive Director of Violence Interrupters, NFP, has been on the front lines in Chicago for more than 25 years and isn’t ready to give up. Hardiman, who joined Cease Fire in 1999, has made tangible results in the community. From 2012 to 2013, homicides had dropped in Chicago by 25%.

“This isn’t just a violence problem, it’s a public health problem,” Hardiman said. “This is a sickness, and to heal it you have to diagnose the problem.”

So, as someone on the front lines, Hardiman has some suggestions on how to make a difference:

Know your history.

To make a difference, you must know what happened before your arrival. “Many times governments bring in people from the outside who don’t respect what happened before,” Hardiman said. “You can’t fix anything without investigating the root cause.”

Know the players.

Hardiman has personally negotiated ceasefires through tense situations, and a big reason the former gubernatorial candidate is still standing is because of the respect he has earned in the inner city. “Many of the homicides are misunderstandings that become something bigger. I call it ‘crazy cousin syndrome’,” Hardiman said. “Two people get in an argument, someone bumps into someone else, and then other people get involved. If you don’t know who is connected to who, you can’t sit in a room and work it out.”

Get someone who speaks their language.

Violence Interrupters, NFP trains and employs violence intervention experts to mediate. These experts are usually people who were participants, but are now peacemakers. “It lowers the recidivism rate and gives the community highly trained people with street credentials,” Hardiman said. According to him, “1,400 people drive the violence in Chicago. If we can turn them into peacemakers, there’s no limit to what we can do.”

Role of the police.

Hardiman calls the police an “ambulance service.” As he sees it, the role of the police is not conflict resolution. “Think about it,” Hardiman said. “They are usually called to respond to a problem. Not before.”

Immediate family’s role.

Those who can make the biggest difference in conflict are family members of the shooters. “We have to tell them there is no place in the family for violent crime. Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and other extended family can hold them accountable,” Hardiman said. He even tells of nephews who were tough. “I had to get together with my brothers and other family members to set them straight. So many family dynamics are dysfunctional. We have to band together.” This leads to the Black community.

Black on Black solutions.

A tight-knit community is vital to facilitate change. “Black Lives Matter can be so much more effective,” Hardiman said. “Imagine 30,000, 40,000 people in downtown Chicago demanding safe communities.”  “We can have the same unity in our neighborhood that we do to protest national causes.”

Perhaps the biggest cause is reducing the number of deaths in Black communities. “Let’s be honest,” Hardiman said. The war on drugs has failed and murder has been a problem in Chicago since the first mayor, Daley (Richard M. Daley was mayor from 1955 to 1976).  Black death has become a hustle. It’s not about the victims and their pain anymore. Even the criminal justice system would be bankrupt. It has turned into business.”

He might come across as no-nonsense in his approach, but Hardiman has a saying that carries throughout his negotiation: “There’s no way to mediate conflict without confrontation.”


John Devine is an assistant sports editor for the Miami Herald

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