NBC News

Nightly News   |  August 15, 2010

Chicago crime wave targets children

NBC’s Lester Holts reports on grim crime statistics, which have turned Chicago streets into a battlefield for children.

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>>> was shot last night and seriously wounded in a park, another grim statistic in what has been a very tough year since a teenager was beaten to death there last september. chicago streets have become a battlefield. and the casualties are kids. lester holt takes us to the chicago streets where teens are often armed and dangerous .

>> from last september, to this past june, 218 chicago students were shot. 31 were killed. not in schools, but on the streets of chicago . even hardened locals say the killing has to stop. derrick brown , aka shotgun, used to rule his west side neighborhood as a gang leader . who would defend this area?

>> me. who would protect it, me. who would start the trouble, me. who would win the battles, me.

>> now, after spending most of his youth in lockup, he wants to steer kids away from the violence.

>> 18 my best friend got killed. don't think because y'all kids, it won't happen to you. because it can and it will.

>> this past may, with shootings wreaking havoc around the city, shotgun hit the streets. only now, he was on patrol. looking to stop trouble. not start it.

>> a little like a gang fight that broke out.

>> on this fight, two mobs of teenagers armed with sticks head towards each other.

>> he don't call me up and we going fight. [ bleep ]

>> ain't nobody going to fight. it, i tell you what, you can fight me. hey, boy, you got to put that down, man.

>> when a kid pulls out a gun, shotgun lets him have it.

>> you better put that down, boy.

>> and with that, the police arrive.

>> just stopping violence with a peace gathering.

>> how about we just move.

>> all right.

>> eventually, shotgun and his friends convince these kids to cool down. and go home. he says former troublemakers like himself are often more effective than the police at keeping the peace here. and chicago police say these men can have something valuable to offer.

>> you trust them, do you embrace them? zmi know these guys are not angels, but we're at a point where we'll use any tool that we can get our hands on that we believe will work.

>> besides, shotgun says, many of these kids don't want angels to look up to. they'll settle tore an adult who cares. one willing to step in before it's too late. lester holt , nbc news, chicago .

>> much more of lester holt 's