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Violent crime is down in Woodlawn this year, and Project HOOD's efforts are getting credit

Project HOOD credited with reducing violent crime in Woodlawn
Project HOOD credited with reducing violent crime in Woodlawn 02:25

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Fighting violent crime is a goal in every Chicago neighborhood – but one South Side community is seeing success.

For Woodlawn, 2022 has actually gotten safer – with murders and shootings down significantly this year. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey dug into why on Monday – and learned many residents are pointing to Project HOOD.

Project HOOD has an anti-violence program that saturates Woodlawn with outreach workers who have ties to the community. According to the data, indeed it does seem to be making a difference.

"This is the violence," said Project HOOD outreach worker Kevin LeFlore, outreach worker. "But I'm still here."

LeFlore said he used to be part of the problem here in Woodlawn. He grew up on the streets of the neighborhood, spent time in prison, and was shot in the abdomen last year.

Then he decided to change.

"To try to show them that if I can change, you can do it too," LeFlore said of his mission. "You don't have to be part of the problem."

Now, LeFlore is one of the outreach workers who pounds the pavement.

He was one of 92 people shot in Woodlawn by this time last year.  This year, that number is 67 – down by about 27 percent.

Homicides in Woodlawn are down about 35 percent, while Woodlawn's next-door neighbor, South Shore, has seen an increase of 11 percent.

"When you look at those numbers, it means that what we do — it works," said Pastor Corey Brooks, chief executive officer of Project HOOD.

Violent crime has dropped in Woodlawn, and many credit Project HOOD 01:43

Brooks says hiring outreach workers who grew up in the Woodlawn community — and may have at one point contributed to the violence there — has been their secret.

"They have social media influence as well, and they're able to find out information that sometimes we're not able to have privy to," Brooks said, "and were able to get ahead of some of the violence and able to diminish it before it even gets started."

Several national studies have found links between the of outreach work in which Project HOOD is involved, and a reduction in gun violence.

Pastor Brooks thinks it would and should be possible to replicate their work in neighborhoods across the city. He says outreach workers like LeFlore are living proof.

"Really, at the end of the day, even though were getting credit for what we're going in Woodlawn, it's really not about who gets the credit," Brooks said. "It's about solving these issues."

"Put the guns down. Make a change," LeFlore added. "We can all do it together. If we do it together, we can do it."

Several national studies have found links between this type of outreach work and a reduction in gun violence. According to the Mayor's office, Chicago has about 15 community areas with street outreach partners - and many of those partners have also seen declines in violence. 

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