PHOTO GALLERY: Aim4Peace tries to prevent violence
Monday, May 23, 2011 | 9:07 a.m. CDT;
updated 4:50 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 23, 2011
Terrance Jackson waits outside of the police line at the scene of a shooting Wednesday on Linwood Boulevard in Kansas City. During the day, Aim4Peace does outreach activities in neighborhoods plagued by violence until they hear reports of shootings or stabbings — then they go right to the scene and try to talk to victims, perpetrators or anyone in the periphery. The members of the street team aren't the police, so they can't go behind the yellow tape, but for that reason people on the scene will typically be more open with them. Aim4Peace won't report what they're told but will instead try to figure out what groups are actively fighting and try to diffuse situations without force.
KANSAS CITY — Aim4Peace works to end violence, especially retaliatory shootings and homicides. Along with working with gang members, Aim4Peace also works with gang members’ friends and relatives to change their positions on violence.
The Rev. Kelsey Hopson of St. Matthew A.M.E. Zion Church listens as Rashid Junaid explains the importance of Aim4Peace's presence in the Kansas City community's churches on Saturday. The street team met Hopson a few blocks from the crime scenes of two separate but possibly related shootings that afternoon near his church.
Rashid Junaid, Violence Prevention Supervisor for Aim4Peace, explains an array of maps Saturday that visualize recent Kansas City area violence in the Aim4Peace office. The blue pins represent shootings, the yellow pins show stabbings and the red pins indicate a homicide. Generally, before the street team goes out, they come into this room for a briefing on the most recent incidents and make a plan of action based on where the clusters of violence appear to be.
Rashid Junaid, Terrance Jackson and Salahuddin Abdul-Waali walk together up the stairs on Wednesday from the Aim4Peace office as they begin a trip to inner Kansas City as part of the Violence Prevention Street Team. After a short briefing in the office, the group went to to a neighborhood they refer to as the "dirty thirties" where persistent violence demands frequent attention.
Jamal Shakur explains the resources listed in Aim4Peace outreach pamphlets to a possible client on the corner of 39th Street and Prospect Avenue on Saturday in Kansas City. The woman, who asked not to be identified, took a few pamphlets to distribute to friends as well as one to keep. Aim4Peace maintains a presence at this particular intersection, handing out pamphlets and talking to people in order to get a sense of the state of things in the community and increase stability.
A police car speeds down Prospect Avenue as Rashid Junaid turns into the direction it's heading and half-chuckles. "Anytime you see a cop rolling that way with its lights on full blast like that ... it's going to the dirty thirties," he said. The "dirty thirties" describes the streets in downtown Kansas City, numbered in the 30s, that are prone to violence and generally make up the scene of most of Aim4Peace's outreach.
Jamal Shakur picks up his street team kit and surveys 39th and Prospect Avenue on Saturday in downtown Kansas City. Inside of his briefcase, he keeps more resource pamphlets like those in his hands as well as lanyards, pens, bracelets and other trinkets to give to the kids he meets on the streets in an attempt to keep their attention long enough to impart Aim4Peace's message of staying out of trouble.
Jamal Shakur has been a Street Intervention Worker with Aim4Peace since November. The street team is a fairly small group — consisting of about a half-dozen members — and most of them are either from the areas in which the team does the most outreach or have been incarcerated themselves. The street intervention workers all have clients in the community who get assistance from the team in staying out of trouble and can call the intervention workers whenever they need help.
Gregory Fields is the youngest Street Intervention Worker at Aim4Peace, but that doesn't mean he has a lack of experience in crime. He has spent time behind bars and thinks his youth and prior missteps make him relatable to the people Aim4Peace is trying to help. "I used to be a favorite among the cops around here," he said. "I was well known because I got into trouble so much." Approachability is an important goal for members of the street team, who have to spend a lot of time convincing people that they aren't working with the police, but instead are trying to keep them out of peril.
"The blue ones are the shootings, the red ones are homicides," explained Rashid Junaid, Violence Prevention Supervisor, Saturday in the Aim4Peace offices. It's unclear what immediate effect Aim4Peace is having on a community that is plagued by what many Intervention Workers call an epidemic of violence, because the benefits of the program are ones that will come with time. But the street team is trying to make a difference through outreach and prevention instead of force and intimidation. Junaid and his co-workers hope they will make the difference in keeping many of the young people growing up in rough neighborhoods in Kansas City from becoming another statistic, another blue or red push pin on the map in their office.
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