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Some Worry Mob Attacks Are Encouraging Racial Profiling

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A few "bad teens" may have started the series of mob attacks in Chicago. But is their action making life difficult for other teens who just want to enjoy the city? CBS 2's Pamela Jones went to the beach Wednesday to find out.

Splashing around with friends is why a lot of teens come to North Avenue Beach.

"I just come out here to have fun," said Eric Nelson.

They see the police helicopter, though, and they know they're being watched. For some African American teens, it could mean racial profiling by other beachgoers. They feel targeted as potential troublemakers because of recent attack mobs in the city.

"Basically thinking I'm going to do violence because I'm African American. You know, said Tracy Silmon, "They probably think I'm going to take something down here or beat somebody up."

"I realy don't pay attention to it or whatever. I just hang out," said Lance Dantzler.

Police say they don't condone and will not tolerate profiling among their officers.

"We will not in any way, shape or form allow any member of the Chicago Police Department to engage in racial profiling," said Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

He said the focus would be on the behavior of groups of young people, not their race.

"You can tell when they're in a kindergarten group, or you can tell when they're in a group that could be engaged in behaviors that we don't like," McCarthy said. "They're going to be loud. They're going to be, perhaps, taunting people and stuff like that, so it's the behaviors. It's not the individuals, and it's large groups of kids."

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports


Teens we found hanging out today say they know the violence is wrong.

"It's, I don't know. Nonsense. Because there's no reason to be doing all this," said Eric Nelson.

Many community leaders say situation makes society label black males guilty by association.

"Almost any black man basically who wears a white shirt and dark pants is going to be looked at suspiciously. And that's very unfortunate," said Phillip Jackson.

He runs The Black Star Project and spent this evening training new mentors.

They're volunteers who will hit the street to try to reach teens who would participate in the attacks.

"If a bunch of strong, positive black men walked up to those same boys, they would start listening," Jackson told the volunteers.

He says there's no excuse for the violence, but it's important to understand some of the reasons why some teens choose attack mobs.

"It's their way of having power. Unfortunately, it's their way of expressing themselves."

Jackson says the teens involved look at the luxe environment downtown and see status symbols and the power and money they represent. The teens may feel that their only chance to possess those things is to take it by force.

The Black Star Project has several upcoming programs to try to change that mentality, including an effort to connect at risk teens with the faith-based community.

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