Chicago's Gang Violence Limits Kids Mobility

Steve Inskeep talks to Steve Gates of Youth Advocate Programs, a lifelong resident of one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods, about the changing nature and daily experience of violence there.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Police in Chicago are calling in reinforcements - additional state troopers have come to the city. Authorities are on alert as the Labor Day holiday approaches. The last holiday weekend was July Fourth and during that weekend, a series of shooting incidents left 14 people killed and 80 wounded.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's get a picture now of one Chicago neighborhood as it looks from the perspective of one of its residents. The resident is Steve Gates, Chicago director for Youth Advocate Programs, which has worked with children and teens in Chicago public schools. His neighborhood is Roseland, where police are trying to hold down rampant crime.

STEVE GATES: It's almost like martial law. We have cops on every other corner trying to deter some crime. But for these kids, it's like living life in a box because of gang boundaries and because one gang may have rivals on the next block or a few blocks over. That kind of limits the kids' mobility, which oftentimes reduces their ability to see anything else. So if you can think about those imaginary borders cutting you off from the rest of the world or the city, imagine being a kid there. You know, there's no baseball programs, no YMCAs, they're closing schools. I feel bad for the children right now.

INSKEEP: You - for several years now - have had an opportunity to work directly with kids and it's now been about five years. How have those kids been doing?

GATES: For the most part, they've been successful. During our tenure there - about 85 percent of our seniors graduated. But, that was with support; that was while the resources were in place.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I had a 24-year-old, DeAndre - De De - he was killed. You know? And I've had other kids killed. But I've also had a lot of kids saved, I've sent a bunch of kids to college. And sometimes the successes can't be measured in graduation or college, but - this kid is safe, he's alive. Just exposing these kids to an alternative to life sometimes is a success.

INSKEEP: How helpful is the police presence in your neighborhood?

GATES: They're helpful in the capacity that I think they deter crime from where they're posted at. I'm kind of torn with this because a lot of times, my civil rights are infringed upon. You know - get out of the car, license and insurance. No, we're not - we're just stopping everybody.

And I'll say, well, hey - that's profiling.

No, it's not profiling; you are all the same.

But then, there's a flipside to that because if the police presence is keeping the murders down, then I'm willing to kind of sacrifice some of those civil liberties, just to keep some of those kids and things safe.

INSKEEP: You said you are willing to sacrifice some civil liberties. You're that worried?

GATES: Yeah, that's what happens. I've talked to law students at Loyola and a lot of people can't believe that - well, you're actually pulled out of the car and searched without probable cause?

Yes, it happens here. And I kind of equate this with wartime you know? When you're at war, the rules of engagement are different. And for the impoverished communities, the rules of engagement are in place now, you know, as opposed to North Shore where the mayor lives, you know, those sorts of things probably don't happen as much. But, they're real. And it happens very frequently here in my community.

INSKEEP: Would you encourage young people to stay in the neighborhood, as you have, or get out?

GATES: That would solely be an independent decision. I still have a lot of family here. I'm still committed to my community. It's not a bad place. We have bad things that happen here, but some of the people that I love the most still live here and there are great people here. And they raised me. And I think, a lot of times when people are successful that they equate being successful with living at a different address. But I also think that leaves a gap that doesn't give these young men and women the proper example that they need, you know. Maybe you can't be Barack Obama or maybe you won't be an astronaut, but you can go to college and you can help some kids. You can do what I do.

INSKEEP: Well, Steve Gates, thanks for taking the time.

GATES: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Steve Gates is with Youth Advocate Programs in Chicago.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.