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Attorney General Merrick Garland Meets With Anti-Violence Groups Searching For Solutions In The Wake Of Mass Shootings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A University of Chicago crime lab analysis with the City of Chicago found West Garfield Park has the highest rate of shootings of any neighborhood in the city. North Lawndale, where two of Wednesday night's mass shootings took place, has a rate of shootings that is twelve times higher than that of Logan Square.

Neighborhood groups in North Lawndale are working around the clock to stop the violence.

As Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Chicago, it's not by accident that St. Agatha Catholic Church in North Lawndale was chosen. It's where Heartland Alliance's Rapid Employment and Development Initiative, otherwise known as READI Chicago, does a lot of work. It is one of the largest anti-violence programs in the country.

Thursday Garland met with READI at the church in North Lawndale as part of a strike force launch against gun violence on the federal level. Garland met with people from the program who see violence firsthand every day in a neighborhood that does, too.

"Yesterday in North Lawndale we had two mass shootings," said Eddie Bocanegra, senior director with READI Chicago. "One of our participants was actually hurt in that incident. Just recently we had another participant shot just four blocks from here. Two years ago a young man was killed about four or five blocks from here. These issues are really hitting home for us when we see the loss of our participants and their friends."

On a daily basis the organization is out there on the streets. They identify Chicagoans most likely to die from gun violence and then give them the therapy and resources like jobs to encourage them to put the guns down.

"People are so quick to say 'Just move' or 'Find a job' or they point a finger, but what's really needed is to empathize with people struggling with this," Bocanegra said.

CBS 2 asked Bocanegra what he thought about the focused federal and local effots to curb gun trafficking.

"There are a number of solutions to address gun violence, but none of the solutions I'm referring to really can solve the crisis we're dealing with right now because the issue on gun violence is extremely complex," he said. "Telling someone to put the gun down is not simply about addressing trauma; in many cases there are other barriers for individuals to change their lifestyles and navigate what they're going through."

One of the key solutions in this complex issue, he says, is more funding for community based violence prevention programs like READI.

President Joe Biden himself said in a speech earlier this summer that studies show a 40% reduction in the likelihood that participants will be victims of gun violence.

"When you compare where the mayor of Chicago is investing [the city's] resources and money, 40% of our funding is going to law enforcement," Bocanegra said. "That's not to say we don't need law enforcement. We do for public safety. But it's beyond that. We need to be investing more in what works."

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