Police: 'Hug-a-thug' program a success

Police: 'Hug-a-thug' program a success

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Police Officers in the 15th District have been making a dent in crime on the city's West Side in a different way.

Law enforcement is intervening in gang conflicts with more than threats of arrest if there's retaliation. Gang members are then given a positive alternative.

"They are offered the opportunity to connect with social services, health services and job placement opportunities to help lead them out of a life of crime," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

Since July, district commanders have been involved in 60 notification visits with gang bangers and their families. Seventeen of them have accepted social service help.

"Some individuals have been very receptive in terms of hearing our conversation and receiving services, and other individuals do not want to hear the conversation at all. So, it really depends on each individual, if they're open, and their families," said Barbara West, Commander of the 15th District.

Charles Perry of the West Side Health Authority, who turned his life around after serving 20 years in prison for drug and weapons convictions, now works with police on the notification visits.

"What we've seen thus far is that most of the people who have asked for help have not been back in trouble," said Perry.

Perry also said that one man brought in seven friends, who all got help finding jobs. Another refused help and wound up shot to death outside his home three months later.

Police say that the program does not equate to coddling criminals, but simply offering help.

"It's a very clear message from law enforcement that if they reoffend, we will use all the resources that we have to do everything we can to ensure that they go back to prison," said McCarthy.

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