Groups create presence on Red Line to deter crime
On Friday, April 22nd, Executive Director of Violence Interrupters, Inc., Tio Hardiman, along with members of Watch Guard, Elite Security, and other organizations with a focus on crime prevention and security, patrolled Red Line trains from the 35th Street Station to the 95th Street Station.
Hardiman was inspired to gather the group because he received phone calls from women and men about concerns for their safety on the Red Line trains. He said a few of the women had their purses and mobile phone taken, and people also told him they were assaulted.
The goal of the presence of the Violence Interrupters and the other organizations was to de-escalate violence situations that might occur on the trains.
Initially, Hardiman called for 10 people to join him. There were 25 people who showed up. The people rode the trains from 35th to 95th and to the downtown area.
“A lot of the passengers were happy to see us on the train. When you have Violence Interrupters on the trains, we serve a dual purpose. One is to prevent and intervene any potential volatile situation, and two, we know how to engage young people to the point where we can help provide some type of referrals for them, like if a person has a mental health issue, drug problem or if a person might be homeless. We have enough resources where we can direct people to social service providers that can help them,” Hardiman said.
Hardiman and the Violence Interrupters have relationships with young people and high-risk individuals who ride the train.
In March, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown and Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval Carter, Jr., announced a series of measures to improve security and safety for commuters. Part of those measures included collaboration between the CTA and CPD to analyze crime patterns, with the goal to implement optimal deployment strategies. Another measure included dedicated teams that would focus on narcotics and gang crimes on the CTA trains and buses.
Hardiman has been doing violence prevention work for about 20 years. He created Violence Interrupters in 2004. He believes to make the city safer, it will take everyone in the violence prevention, mental health space, substance abuse space and the police to work together.
“I know the city is doing the best they can do to bring everybody together. That’s happening to a degree, but it’s all about coordinating services where we can really reach the people that need to be reached in order to reduce the gun violence,” he said.
Hardiman acknowledges there are many groups that can reach the shooters committing the violence in Chicago. For the carjacking incidents, Hardiman believes in an all hands on deck approach for people to reach the individuals perpetrating those crimes.
On Friday, April 29th, Hardiman and the Violence Interrupters went back on the Red Line. This time, at night, because he heard from people on the train they are concerned for their safety during those hours, too.
“We’re not the police. We’re not going out there to arrest anybody. We’re not vigilantes. If we see somebody trying to hurt somebody, we will do our best to intervene and deescalate the situation before anybody is harmed. We’re not trying to take the law into our own hands,” Hardiman said, adding that the goal is to stop people from being hurt on the train.
For more information about Tio Hardiman and Violence Interrupters, visit www.violenceinterrupters.org.
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