By Timothy Mclaughlin
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Glen Brooks, a Chicago Police Department area coordinator, stood in front of a sometimes hostile crowd for the third time this week, calling on the community to help curb the city's gun violence.
"There is an evil out here, if we do not organize and become powerful it will continue to spread," he said Thursday night, speaking in the parking lot of an auto parts store on the city's West Side.
"It will continue to take our young men and turn them into something no parent could ever imagine."
In the wake of three fatal shootings of young children — aged 2, 11 and 12 — in recent days, the department held a series of interventions aimed at convincing those in violent neighborhoods to become more involved.
The police also want to overcome years of mistrust that has led to hostility with the city's minority communities, which see the police as having used excessive force against its members for years.
Discriminatory policing practices in Chicago's minority neighborhoods have "eroded CPD's ability to effectively prevent crime," a January report from the Department of Justice said. The rate of solved murders in Chicago regularly lags the national average.
Neighborhoods on the city's South and West Sides, where the three children were shot this week, are impoverished and plagued by unemployment.
Last year, Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, had a surge in violence that sent murders to 762, the highest since 1996.
The children who died this week were three of the 74 people murdered so far this year, a decrease from 82 in the same period last year, according to police. The number of shootings has ticked up to 330 from 324 in the same period last year.
Police, and community activists, point to the arrest of Antwan Jones, 19, who turned himself in and was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Takiya Holmes, 11, as an example of how quickly cases can be closed if people are willing to work with law enforcement.
"We need the community to help us," Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said after Jones' arrest. "In this case, they stepped up."
Police were assisted by community activist Andrew Holmes, who worked with other groups and spoke to Jones' mother in an effort to convince him to turn himself in.
"They are not our enemy," Holmes said of the police in an interview with Reuters.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)