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Anti-violence leader alarmed over rise of teen crime

Tio Hardiman, president of the not-for-profit organization Violence Interrupters, is disturbed over the rise of teenage arrests for armed robberies, smash-and-grabs and even murder. Hardiman says some youth think being jailed is a “badge of honor on the streets of Chicago while others do it for the fun of it.”

Working with troubled youth every day, Hardiman told the Chicago Crusader, “You have a lot of misguided young people in the community in Chicago. You see a rise in these types of crimes because they aren’t making the money they used to on the street corners selling dope.

“So, carjackings, smash-and-grabs are new revenue streams for them,” Hardiman said.

“It’s like they go to many young people with idle time. Some of them are committing crime and not taking it seriously. They’re going to work every day committing new crimes.

“There are too many youth doing it for the fun of it, but they are hurting people in the process. They aren’t even mature yet mentally with some 13, 14, 15…. A lot of them are just out here running wild, and it’s tragic that so many people are getting hurt in the process.”

“I talk to the young guys all the time,” Hardiman said. “Some are carjacking to joy ride in somebody’s car. They like to feel their adrenalin rush when they take a gun and commit a crime. There is no real method to the madness regarding any kind of financial gain for some of them.

“They are robbing people of their cell phones, taking money out of their pockets. They aren’t getting a lot of money from doing this. They are just taking things from people because these young people know because of the laws that the police can’t pursue them. They know the police can’t chase you in the car or pursue them on foot. The police have to get permission, and these young people know this.

“They are willing to take a chance and carjack somebody without fear of being apprehended,” said Hardiman.

Because of their youth, Hardiman said, the police may take them to the station, but let them out again. “These youth are not taking it seriously. There are no consequences for their crimes.”

Hardiman doesn’t believe these criminal acts are organized. “You have guys taking advantage of you because they have a gun.”

When asked how teenagers are getting so many guns, Hardiman said, “It’s easy to get guns in Chicago because guns have been highly accessible for decades in Chicago.”

He said the feds need to do a better job of intercepting illegal gun trade in the city especially in the Black community.

“You can buy a gun just like you buy a pair of gym shoes. There is a black market for illegal gun trade. All it takes is five minutes to buy a gun. As long as you have connections, you can buy a gun anytime, anywhere,” said Hardiman.

He said the gun that is most fashionable right now is one where they put a switcher on it where they can fire 70 shots from the gun. Hardiman was referring to a switch gun owners buy that allows them to switch between semi-automatic and full-automatic firing modes.

“If you have four or five guys jumping out of a car and all of them got switchers, you’re talking about almost 200 rounds (ammunition) coming your way.”

He does think the carjackings are organized. “A lot of them carjack to commit more crimes, others go joy riding.”

When asked why these crimes are occurring more frequently, Hardison explained, “a lot of the drug money has dried up. They aren’t making as much money as they used to so they are getting involved with other crimes like carjackings.

“Marijuana is legal now so they aren’t making money off of that anymore. People are not smoking cocaine like they used to. You don’t have a lot of crack addicts in the city anymore. Heroin is still out there, but it’s not like it used to be. You got more designer drugs now.

“The drug business isn’t like it used to be,” Hardiman said. “Some of these guys don’t want to work so they are going out there carjacking and murdering people.”

Hardiman said tougher sentences should be given to the gun runners.

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