Ceasefire Celebrates One Year in Rockford

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

One year ago Tuesday Ceasefire's battle began. The anti-violence group's message has been simple: stop the shooting on Rockford's streets, but with six murders already this year, challenges still lie ahead for the program.

One year, 14 homicides and 80 shootings later, Ceasefire continues its battle: fighting crime on Rockford's most violent streets.

"We don't claim to have the magic bullet. When someone comes to us with the numbers, we ask ourselves how many of those types of incidents have we prevented," questions Ceasefire leader Ralph Hawthorne.

For 12 months more than 130 volunteers have targeted Rockford's hot spots for crime. Concord Commons is one of them. Two teens were gunned down here earlier this year, but residents say Ceasefire's presence in the hours and days after that crime made a difference.

"I've lived in Concord for three years now. The first year there were a lot of shootings, but in the past year since Ceasefire has come around the shootings have slowed down," says resident Veronica Flores.

Ceasefire's Mario Garcia says he presents the alternatives like a job or an education to high risk individuals. Then he asks one question: what kind of life do you want to live?

"That's the eye-opener when we show them our info and in there you see pictures of people behind bars or in coffins, and that's reality," explains Garcia.

"Killing, shooting and hurting one another is not the answer to our problems. There's a better answer," adds Ceasefire partner Bishop James Washington.

The largest challenge for Ceasefire now is finding funding. Hawthorne's hoping to gain more support for the group's efforts to help change lives and stop the shooting.

In the past year, Ceasefire has also focused on public education. Members have handed out more than 75,000 pieces of literature, buttons, t-shirts, etc. to spread the non-violence message.


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