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With 6 Children And Teens Shot And 1 Killed In Chicago Within Hours This Week, Youth Mentor Says Action Is Needed Now

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Six children were shot in Chicago in a matter of hours this week, and one high-schooler is dead.

Each incident of a child or teenager shot has ripple effects. Their young friends, families, and community leaders are all impacted.

One of those impacted was a South Side mentor who knows one of the victims of the rash of shootings on Tuesday. She spoke Wednesday to CBS 2's Steven Graves, and she is calling on parents and officials to not waste time - and take action.

With each young face and name that's connected to Chicago shootings, there is a friend, teacher, or mentor like Geri Jones hurting.

"We don't want become in a position where we hear these things and we're like, 'Oh well, another kid got shot,'" Jones said. "No, that is a valuable life."

Caleb Westbrook, 15, is the latest teen killed. Someone shot the Rauner College Prep student Tuesday at 1:15 in the afternoon on Greenview Avenue near Chicago Avenue in West Town.

Caleb Westbrook
Caleb Westbrook, 15, was shot and killed in the West Town neighborhood on Jan. 18, 2022. (Source: Facebook/Legal Help FIrm)

He was one of six young people shot in one day. The reasons - in a lot of cases - we never know.

"A lot of children are being bullied," Jones said. "Some of the kids are getting shot because they don't want to be in a gang."

Jones found out a 16-year-old boy, who was shot with a girl on Lowe Avenue near 122nd Street in West Pullman, used to participate in her anti-violence organization's after school program a year ago.

And with that boy and girl having been at 4 in the afternoon on Tuesday, people like Jones can't help but wonder if things could have been different just by them being in a different place.

She sounded the alarm in November, when shots were fired by West Pullman park.

There was worry over violence., as her group and others get money for activities in the summer, But the funding stream freezes in the winter.

"Really for the last few years, it's been really, really bad because of COVID," Jones said.

While we don't know the reason, data from the University of Chicago Crime Lab shows the number of kids shot in Chicago hit a six-year low in 2019.

It is not clear why, but in the past two years, that number has risen almost 150 cases.

"We need our children," Jones said, "We have to invest in them."

Jones said she has seen the benefit of programs, like a basketball tournament over Christmas with free skating – which is only able to happen with sponsorships.

She is asking for parents to get involved in their kids' lives, and others to help out organizations looking to make an impact.

Despite the COVID impact, Jones is pushing forward.

"We don't have a choice," she said.

Indeed, she says saving young lives takes priority.

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