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Thursday, May 31, 2007
A deadly school year in Chicago
28 Dead. 28 young people. Boys and girls, sons and daughters.

Since January, 28 public school students have been murdered. At least 20 were shot. Some were stabbed or suffocated. Most of the killings were gang related and took place on Chicago's south side.

Outside the city, the murders have received scant attention. Some believe it's because of race. "If these kids were dying in the wealthy white suburbs, the world would hear about it," said Arnie Duncan, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools.

It's hard to disagree with him.

One of the young victims was 16-year-old Blair Holt. He was an honor student. He had dreams of making it big in the music business. And he was shot to death by reputed gang member who boarded a bus and opened fire. Students say Holt was protecting another student when he was shot.

Holt's father is a Chicago police officer. His mother a captain with the city's Fire Department. Both want to know when the killing will stop.

We'll be in Chicago tonight to try and understand what is happening here and around the nation. A rise in juvenile crime has contributed to rising crime statistics around the country. These kids should not be statistics however. Their names should be known, their deaths reported on around the country.

We are here to start a conversation about these kids, their deaths, their lives, and about so many other kids whose lives many of us probably don't even begin to understand.

We'll talk to Mayor Richard Daley, school officials, young residents of Chicago's South Side, and Blair Holt's father.

We'll see you tonight.

--By Anderson Cooper
Posted By CNN: 3:36 PM ET
It's a tragedy when anyone is a victim of violence, but it's extremely distressing to hear that someone with as much potential as Blair Holt, a young person who could've accomplished great things in his life and possibly influence others like him, ends up as another grim statistic. When will it end? Thanks AC360 for focusing on this topic.
Posted By Fay, Vacaville, CA : 4:17 PM ET
This is so sad. I live in a surburb just south of chicago about 1 hour away. We need to take better care of our young men and women. We need to fine someway to stop all this death and pain.
Posted By NICOLE DUNCAN... Montgomery, il : 4:21 PM ET
I find it heartbreaking that certain stories don't make sufficient headlines simply because "that's the way it is" in areas where crime is high. We are fighting our own internal wars in this country and they need to be stopped. The ignorance and lack of coverage and action only perpetuates it.

Thank you '360' and I look forward to the program
Posted By Aruna, Minneapolis, MN : 4:27 PM ET
Here we go again with the "if this were a white neighborhood then people would care" garbage. Patterns of random, low-level crime and violence are not seen as much in higher-income neighborhoods (regardless of ethnicity or race) because these neighborhoods generally have people with better educational backgrounds. And people who are educated and mannered usually raise their children likewise.

Income levels obviously do not determine whether or not one is prone to senseless violence, but low levels of economic opportunity and minimal education produce a dangerous mixture. And when children are born into this environment, it sadly becomes probable that negative patterns are learned. This enviornment of mass ignorance can manifest, for example, in the ridiculous "don't snitch" policy reported a few weeks ago.
Posted By Bob Goldie, San Francisco, CA : 4:29 PM ET

I watched this story last night, Blair Holt's parents both serve their community, their honor student son who was full of promise, even in his final momment of life he made the brave decision to protect another students life. I saw the pain in the eyes of his two loving parents, i'ts beyond heartbreak, What does it take for the city of Chicago and other cities nationwide to say enough"? zero tolerance . Reputed gang members kill with no remorse, talk about the criminal justice system that's overwhelmed, and the outcome of that is a slap on the wrist sentence, plea bargins , deals cut ,sentences reduced , criminals go free..there's the breakdown of the cycle of violence,
what are his parents left with in terms of justice for a precious life ended , what's our society left with ?.

Posted By Maritza, San Jose, Ca : 4:37 PM ET
thank you Mr. Anderson Cooper for paying attention to these matter. the kids now are becoming more violent and I think they see violence in there homes so that's why they are more vulnerable to become a gang member.

regards to all staff and crew of AC360. congratulation in your paperback edition book. it's a blast!
Posted By Jemillex Bacerdo Chicago, IL. : 4:38 PM ET

I will be very interested in what Mayor Daley and other officials have to say about this crime wave. Wasn't the Chicago Crime Commission selected by Project Safe Neighborhoods to deal with these types of crimes; what have they done to address this epidemic?

Why haven't these deaths been reported by the media? Are these "statistics" being hidden or just ignored? I agree, it is difficult to disagree with Arnie Duncan's assertion, but who is responsible for this lack of interest?

Thank you for bringing this important issue to our attention. I hope the dialogue you are beginning tonight will have a positive impact on not only Chicago, but elsewhere where the rise of juvenile crime has become a problem.

Jo Ann
Posted By Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 4:46 PM ET
Hi Anderson,
It's an unimaginable tragedy to lose any young person- they have so much promise and hope for the future. Kids are kids no matter where they are.
I look forward to the show tonight.
Posted By Pamina, Pittsford, New York : 4:50 PM ET
We used to think it was a big deal when there was a fist fight after school, how has things progressed to this? How can these young people have such a blatant disrepect for life?
Posted By Cheryl, Johnston, RI : 4:53 PM ET
I have 12-year-old boy,but I think he haven't felt racial prejudice.
What is happening in Chicago?It's hard to believe...
Posted By Yukako,Aichi,Japan : 5:00 PM ET
I grew up in Chicago on the South side. Every spring, like clockwork, gang violence would escalate. I remember hearing about kids getting killed, and I even lost a few friends to gang violence. In my recollection, the break of spring brought the biggest wave of violence because the gangs have been cooped up all winter, but as soon as the weather starts to get a little warm (around April), the gangs would be out in force.

Just a few weeks ago, my aunt lost her nephew in one of those waves of gang violence. He was gunned down in the street, only 22 years old and now he's gone.

Sadly, violence in Chicago, particularly in the poorest areas, is nothing new. It was a reality of my childhood that I never even thought twice about. For us, it was a way of life, as natural as breathing. You knew what colors not to wear, which streets to avoid, what schools to not go near, and what time of day to make sure you were safely locked inside. Only as an adult do I now understand that living that way is not the norm, but an exception.
Posted By Kelley, Chicago : 5:00 PM ET
Hi Anderson, in addition to race, I can't help but wonder if the "stop snitchin" rule also has something to do with why these murders are not as exposed as they should be. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be a kid growing up these days. It's downright scary...and depressing. Yes, this story needs to be told and the killings have to stop as soon as possible. Thanks for continuing to bring us the reality of the world we live in.

Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Lilibeth, Edmonds, WA : 5:03 PM ET
I hope the lack of attention to this isn't about race, but it's hard to believe otherwise considering the fact that racial relations are pathetic in this country. We tolerate reprehensible things. We don't send enough signals that we won't tolerate intolerance and prejudice. I also think it's important to delve into the etiology of the gang syndrome and what if anything can be done to diffuse the factors that eventually lead to these murders. And you're right-there needs to be a face, a life associated with every last victim.
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 5:09 PM ET
The tragic murders in Chicago are only part of a recent trend that is occurring. The rate of violent crimes has increased throughout the country when compared to the same time last year. The only thing that I can think of that could possibly curtail this trend is for the mayors of all cities throughout the country-including Chicago-to toughen their stance on violent crime and gang activity. The mayor of Boston has already stated that Boston is going to toughen its stance on violent crime and gang activity. I don't remember the specifics but there was an article related to that in The Boston Herald some time ago.
Posted By Jared, North Conway, NH : 5:22 PM ET
With the school year out for the summer, I see restless teens gathering at fast-food restaurants, city parks and convenience stores. With YMCAs now relocating to the "burbs" and under-funded community centers closing, where are the teens to go to gather? Hence, stagnation may lead to street loitering and potential violence.

I hear about how neighborhoods need to take back their communities, but without supportive police officers and proactive city leaders, it isn't going to happen.

We need to invest in our youth. I am not just talking about money but the investment through business mentorship, neighborhood watches, and a commitment from the teens themselves. I look forward to hearing from the Chicago South Side teens.

I feel like we live in the era of "Escape from Chicago or Indianapolis" rather than seeking communities that cherish their youth and support law enforcement.

Reality check: Teen violence is in every neighborhood in America no matter the socio-economic level of the community.

Thanks for keeping it honest.

We will be watching AC360 tonight.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 5:23 PM ET
What a terrible lost of young lives filled with unlimited potential. Last week in Toronto a 15 year old biy by the name of Jordan Manners was shot dead at school by two older kids over a "prank" apperently. These young people where supposedly friends. Today was his funeral. Until kids realize that playing with guns is not a game that can be restarted then maybe we will able to stop this senseless violence. And maybe if these young people actually had to face the consequences for their actions it would stop as well.

Anderson and team thanks for bringing this story out into the open. It show be an interesting special tonight......stay safe in Chicago!
Posted By Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada : 5:23 PM ET
Hey Anderson,
I'm shocked by the high number of kids killed in 5 months only in the same area. We are sending our kids to school to learn,have good experiences and make memorable memories,not for them to get killed.
Here in Montreal,there are some high schools with metal detectors at the doors because of the violence,gang related,also. It would be interesting to know what is the profile of those gangs. Here,they are more & more organised and criminalized. They stay older too and recrute big time.
Some kids even wear some piece of clothing the same color as the gang doing trouble in the aera so they will stay safe. Others,tragically,without knowing it wear the colors of a rival gang and they get injured or killed.
Is it the same stories on your side of the border? What is stunning to me is that it has been kept silent,all that violence in Chicago. Kids are dying,everybody should be shouting it from roof tops. THis shouldn't be. Thank you for giving them the attention they deserve.
As for the man with TB, we are earing a lot about it here,because a good number of the people sitting near the man are living in Montreal or the area. That man traveled to different countries knowing he shouldn't,deliberatly entered from Canada into the States. One,he should be charged.Second,he should be billed for the work that the Health department on your side and ours is doing trying to locate the other passengers. If he didn't know,ok,but he did. He should have consequences.

Have a great show Anderson

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 5:45 PM ET
The sad thing about this story is that I live in Illinois about an hour south of Chicago and until I read your blog entry I had no idea this was occurring so close to home. I think that it is disgraceful that the word isn't getting out to surrounding areas in Illinois. I live in a small, quant town but about 10 minutes away there is a lot of gang activity going on and to be honest we don't pay enough attention to it and people are getting robbed and killed. I think it is essential to inform the people of what is going on and that way we can work together to find a solution and provide a better future for the youths in this country. We owe it to individuals like Blair Holt, who have such a promising future ahead of them and don't get to accomplish all that they are capable of because their lives are taken away far to early, to come up with a way to stop the violence.
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 6:03 PM ET
I've watched Anderson report from some of the most dangerous areas in the world, but I must say that watching him anchor from that street in Chicago was one of the scariest two hours that I've ever sat through on 360. That looked like a pretty rough neighborhood, but I certainly appreciate 360's desire to tackle this issue and the reports were excellent albeit disturbing.
Posted By Marie J, Orlando, FL : 2:49 AM ET
Please Explain how Gun Control is believed to be an effective solution to end violent crimes. Chicago, IL and cook county IL.
has some of the most strict gun laws and yet has this type of Gun Violence. Firearms related homicides in a city where handguns and even handgun ammunition is illegal.
We need more Criminal control.
Posted By Matthew Carter : 5:18 AM ET
Sadly the issue of youth violence is not exclusive to one community or even one country. In London, UK, there have been several murders involving teenagers since the beginning of the year. This problem has also plagued some parts of the Caribbean as well. Before we can find out what will end the violence we must first examine what started it in the first place.
Posted By Sam, London UK : 8:48 AM ET
Thank you for bringing attention to an alarming issue in America. There are so many "politics" involved in bringing awareness to issues in other countries, when I feel like our youth and the troubles they face are being ignored. Our children need help. Politicians, policy makers, and activists need to remember that the youth here in America is our countries future and we must take care of them in order to ensure a strong America. It's appalling to hear the statistics and to know that no one has heard of all of these killings. It's pushed under the rug like it has never happened.
Posted By Sharon Norris Greeneville, Tennessee : 9:43 AM ET
It's sad and unsettling that kids nowadays have to be taught to be street-wise at such a young age.
When I was growing up all I got were,"Don't talk to strangers and don't go out too late".
I'm now in my mid-thirties. So what had happened between then and now?
Why are kids more violent today? What had made them so? Are they over exposed to violence and lacking in guidance?
As adults we have a responsibility towards what's happening to them.
We really have got to ask the tough questions and find proper solutions to this issue.
Thank you for bringing this up.
Posted By Lai Peng Foong, Penang, Malaysia : 10:41 AM ET
I can't believe it's taken so long to hear about these killings that have averaged more than three a month since September. In Arizona, I can't do much besides pray. That's the best help I can offer.
Children are not spare people.
Teenagers are not spare people.
Blessings to the survivors and the officers investigating.
Posted By Anonymous : 10:58 AM ET
Gangs and kids who behave violently have been a part of culture for generations. The difference is that fists are not used, guns are. The media that our children are exposed to early on, from movies, video games and music videos, are filled with images so violent, that they are impossible for someone older to view. But children become desensitized to the violence and death. And some of them, grow up to admire the power that having a gun and killing, over-powering weaker individuals, artificially gives them. The death of these promising children, makes me sick. You cannot know what destiny had in store for these bright new stars. Some of the answers to the world turmoil as a whole, are dying with our young people, not only in Chicago, but across the country, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Violence is never the answer. I do not think one pundit, either political or spiritual can solve this issue. It will take an army of citizens, tired of what is happening, to change this nation.
Posted By Anonymous : 11:03 AM ET
Last night I watched as a godmother of three girls, one going into high school this year. And what I saw scared me. You're right. We all should be freaked out about these kids dying needlessly. The changes that need to happen are gigantic in scope. The magic wand is apparently in the shop. It's up to us to create the miracle that will help these teens become healthy adults. Kids need to feel like someone cares about what happens to them. It's that simple. The kids haven't failed adults. Our society has failed these children and teens miserably. When giving your kid the newest IPod matters more than giving him a hug or taking time to have a conversation over a real dinner something is seriously wrong. I love my girls. I hope they know that if no other adult in the world is there for them, I am. It's what godparents are supposed to do. Apparently it's not happening enough. And we are paying the price for our indifference to them. The conversations are definitely worth continuing and creating change. We owe our kids that at a minimum.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 11:14 AM ET
Sharon from TN and a few others have the right idea that "our kids need help".

I mean, firepower will always be with us. Let's make it very difficult to get a gun; and take assault weapons completely out of production. But most importantly, let us adults exemplify the teachings we want our kids to have in their lives - faith, hard work, personal responsibilty and family. There will always be evil infuence and the chance of violence happening- even in fancy neighborhoods- but if kids know right from wrong and have faith, it makes life easier to handle when bad things do happen.
Posted By xtina chicago IL : 12:54 PM ET
I too, grew up on the South Side. Now I live in Kansas, one of 48other states that do allow law abiding people to carry guns. Illinois, and the city of Chicago, have the most draconian gun control laws in the country. They don't work, and only denies the good people the right to defend themselves. These hoods shoot others because they can, and nobody will shoot back at them. That neighborhood has always been rough. When will people take off the rose-colored glasses and give the law-abiders their guns back, and throw the key away on the bad guys?
Posted By Marty, Derby KS : 2:10 PM ET
It's interesting that while everyone is asking "why?" and trying to figure out who is responsible, not one person has suggested that perhaps the people who bear most of the responsibility for the situation are the people who live on the South side of Chicago. I know, I know...crazy idea. Imagine communities actually taking responsibilty for their own problems instead of passing the buck all the way up to the president of the United States. If the folks living on the south side were as outraged about these killings as CNN's viewers, They'd be halfway to a solution. If the parents, educators, and community leaders don't care enough to act, why should anyone else?

If a student (of any race) were killed in my local school district, the entire community would be in an uproar. As a community we would demand that this never be allowed to happen again. Without the support of the local community, outside efforts, no matter how well intentioned, will simply not work. Change has to come from within.
Posted By julia, Brookfield, WI : 1:46 AM ET
I don’t think it is just Chicago that is full of hopelessly trapped teens. There are many in every metropolitan city clearly headed down the wrong road: dying, going to prison etc. Solving the problem is no easy matter, nor can it be done by simply throwing money at it. And if I had a solution, I would bottle and sell it.
The societal perception of them is just as much of an obstacle on their road to a better life, as is their actual situation. I hope you can shade some light on that in your stories 360. They’ve never had a voice, they have never experienced what it means to speak their minds and let everything fall where it may. How can you expect a person to understand and find something they have never known? Until one actually have had a chance to walk a mile in their choose one ought not judge. And not walk in their choose in an MTV reality show, but really live their lives for a week, a month, a year. And then show them where you are, and how they can get there. How can one expect these kids, or their parents for that matter, to see past the societal neglect of their situation and have hope? How many of them even possess the wherewithal to examine their predicament. It is a miracle they are able to get-up and take a shower in the morning, let alone go about their day and give it all they have.
Posted By Kokie Melaku, San Francisco, CA : 4:50 AM ET
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