A safe space in one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods

CHICAGO -- Thirteen-year-old DaQuan Hargrove isn't allowed outside around his neighborhood, unless it's to walk to school or to play basketball at a community program called Kids Off The Block.

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Kids paying basketball in Rosedale, Chicago.
CBS News

"Lord knows we have too many guns here. ... We're coming to the point when we accept that this is normal, when you have grandmothers, babies shot in the daytime," said Diane Latiker, founder of Kids Off The Block, who, like Hargove, lives in Chicago's Rosedale neighborhood.

Kids Off The Block provides a safe space for youth who experience gun violence as part of everyday life. Chicago had the most homicides of all U.S. cities in 2015 -- nearly 470 -- and 2,939 people were shot citywide.

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DaQuan Hargrove in front of the Kids Off the Block memorial.
CBS News

"One time, it was like, it was five years ago, and my sister's boyfriend, he was in a gun gang and someone came and started shooting up our house, and we had to run out of our house," said Hargrove.

Many kids like Hargrove worry that they could be victims of gang violence, or end up like 17-year-old Laquan McDonald -- who was shot by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke 16 times in October 2014. Or like Cleveland's Tamir Rice, who was 12 when he was fatally shot by police in November 2014 while carrying a pellet gun.

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Diane Latiker and her youngest daughter.
CBS News

Rice is the youngest victim in a series of high-profile police killings in recent years. Last month, an Ohio grand jury decided not to charge police officers Timothy Loehmann or Frank Garmback for his death. Instead, Rice's death has been painted as a tragic misunderstanding.

On a sunny fall afternoon, a group of about 40 kids aged 5 to about 19 gathered around a basketball court that Latiker secured for Kids Off The Block -- basketball is the main activity that drew in most of the 220 kids currently in the program.

"I seen a lot of people dying in my face, when I was younger," 13-year-old Semaj Calloway told CBS News. "I really wasn't supposed to be outside when I was little, [I] just liked playing basketball and I used to go to parks and stuff like that, and people used to do drive-bys."

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Latiker with some of the 220 children who comprise Kids Off the Block.
Ines Novacic

Another young Kids Off the Block basketball team-member added how he walked away from someone with a gun two weeks previously.

"When I first started I was naive," said Latiker, explaining how she came to start the nonprofit organization. "I was just a mom who wanted to help kids in my neighborhood ... when I realized three months after opening my door I have 75 kids coming in day and night, waiting for me on the porch when I come out. That's when it hit me -- they're looking for someone in their community, someone who cares."

Latiker walked past the court to a makeshift concrete memorial that faced the street:

"This is the memorial tribute to the young people killed by violence."

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The memorial has been rebuilt 12 times to fit the names of youth killed by gun violence.
CBS News

She explained how, in 2007, she purchased several stones from Home Depot that resembled small headstones, following the murder of her youngest daughter's classmate by a gang member's stray bullet.

"It's 474 stones here now," sad Latiker. "I believe it's 511 that we don't have."

"We've come to the point when we accept this as normal. When you have grandmothers [and] babies shot in the daytime -- what is that?"

That same afternoon, Chris Mallett -- head of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, an anti-violence initiative funded by the MacArthur Foundation and supported by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York -- walked around the South Side's Hyde Park neighborhood.

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Mallett explains how everyone has a role to play in reducing gun violence.
CBS News

"Data shows us that it's not communities that are violent but individuals in the community," Mallett told CBS News. "Most of the work that we do, it can be in anyone's neighborhood. But we go where the violence goes."

Mallett uses official data, for example police and court records, to identify specific individuals and groups who are actively involved in gun-related disputes and violence.

Mallett goes door to door visiting individuals and groups identified as violent and delivers anti-violence messages, sometimes involving family or members of the broader community. When face-to-face meetings can't happen, he'll host these conversations over the phone.

"You're not pointing finger, you're just saying people need to stop shooting people," said Mallett. While a history of racial tension and strained police-community relations adds a layer of complexity Chicago's epidemic of violence, Mallett stresses personal responsibility with the people he seeks to mentor.

"We understand the historical factors that lead to it [gun violence], but notwithstanding, it's not okay to shoot and kill people."

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Kids Off the Block is a safe neigborhood space for more than 200 Chicago kids.

According to the latest evaluation of the program by John Jay College, gang members who attended a meeting with Mallett, or were part of a call-in, were 23 percent less likely to commit a shooting, and 32 percent less likely to be a victim of gun violence.

Latiker is also seeing results with Kids Off The Block, which gives her hope:

"Last year we had six of our young people graduate from different colleges across this country, and it still brings me chills, because I know where they came from," said Latiker.

"They came from this place."