New law: Texting on hands-free devices while driving will be legal Jan. 1
by Gary Richards
California drivers, feel free to text away -- as long as you don't use your fingers.
Much to the chagrin of many motorists disturbed by the growing problem of distracted drivers, a new state law kicks in Tuesday that will allow anyone behind the wheel to receive and send a text message as long as they are using technology designed to allow for a fully voice-operated, hands-free operation.
"A bad idea," said Eric Nordman, a 54-year-old mechanical engineer from Palo Alto. "There are enough distracted drivers out there without adding to the problem."
Proponents say ever-changing technology makes the new law inevitable, and they say it's better than having drivers type messages from handheld phones with their eyes off the road.
A driver going 55 mph while typing can cover the length of a football field without looking up, studies have shown.
The texting change is one of several new traffic laws to go into effect in 2013, including one setting standards on the use of red-light cameras and another allowing drivers to park free at locations where meters are broken.
The new rule on texting has caught the attention of safety advocates from California to Washington, D.C.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has called cellphone use and texting "a national epidemic" and wants automakers to get behind voluntary government efforts to ensure dashboard technologies increasingly being added to cars won't distract drivers.
LaHood opposes any form of texting or telephone conversation while driving. He urges people to put their phones out of reach.
The National Transportation Safety Board has called for a ban on cellphone use by drivers, including the use of hands-free phones. Most studies show hands-free conversations are just as distracting to drivers as those involving handheld phones.
The new California law prohibits texting while driving unless it's done on an "electronic wireless communications device (that) is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication." That appears to mean texting with the iPhone's Siri or Android's Google Now is OK, because the law allows drivers to touch a device to activate or deactivate it or to enter a telephone number.
"This clarifies some of the gray areas in previous laws," said spokesman Chris Cochran of the state Office of Traffic Safety. But he said it's preferable not to use cellphones while driving at all, as "research has shown that the conversation itself is dangerous due to inattention blindness and the brain's tendency to move functions needed for driving over to the conversation."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 5,474 people were killed and an estimated 448,000 were injured in 2009 in accidents that involved distracted driving -- about 16 percent of all traffic deaths.
Questions posed to a dozen drivers revealed that all think it's unwise to allow texting while driving, even with a hands-free gadget.
"The law doesn't reduce or eliminate the mental distraction," said Tim Hyde, of San Jose, whose son was hit by a texting driver at the Highway 85-87 interchange. "But being as pragmatic as I am, I know there will never be a way to legislate that away, as it would be virtually undetectable and unenforceable."
Added Sue Fikes, a 70-year-old retired junior high math teacher from Palo Alto: "Who needs to do texting of any kind while driving?"
Ohio's youngest inmates have become its most dangerous
by Pamela Engel
The most violent prisons in Ohio aren't the maximum-security facilities or those housing Death Row inmates.They're those holding teenager.
There were more assaults than inmates last year at Ohio's youth prisons, where the rate of assaults per inmate was 48 times greater than in adult lockups. An annual assessment filed this month by a court-appointed monitor said the conditions of the facilities are improving and that in certain areas, the state Department of Youth Services serves as a model for the nation.
But several Department of Youth Services staff members who spoke with The Dispatch said there isn't enough discipline in the youth prisons and talked of dangerous environments for both staff and teens.
“We need help. And we can't get it because everybody is scared to tell, because they don't want to lose their job; but I've got to tell somebody,” said a youth specialist who works at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility. He did not want his name published for fear of retaliation.
“Sooner or later, somebody is going to get killed,” he said.
A corrections officer at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Delaware County was hospitalized in September after three inmates charged into her office and attacked her. The beating left her with a concussion, a broken nose and damage to her eye.
Ohio juvenile correctional facilities held about 680 youth in 2011. In that same year, there were 1,604 assaults, which includes intentionally striking another person, throwing any solid or liquid object at or connecting with another person, spitting at or on another person, and intentionally biting another person.
Ohio adult prisons recorded 2,486 assaults last year. The population was 50,607 in July 2011.
“We have to go in (to work) every day wondering if it's going to be safe for us,” said Jonathan Blackford, 35, who works at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility as a corrections officer, known as a youth specialist within the system.
The director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, which operates the state's youth prisons, said violence is not tolerated in the facilities.
“Youth receive consequences for inappropriate behavior,” said Director Harvey J. Reed. “When our staff are assaulted, I make every effort to reach out to them personally and express my sincere concern for them.”
In December, 28 employees were out on injury leave from the state's four youth prisons. The facilities have a total staff of about 1,153.
Some youth specialists say the excessive violence is hurting morale.
“Everyone is just angry and upset. Period,” said the unnamed Circleville youth specialist. “Something has got to be done.”
You wouldn't know that the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility is a youth prison if not for the high fence surrounding the grounds.
The campus overlooks the Scioto River in Delaware County. Small buildings dot the landscape, which resembles a park with its winding pathways, benches and trees.
The “units” where the youth are kept are bright and airy inside. Paintings illustrating freedom and peace decorate the concrete walls, and zebra-striped rugs cover portions of the hard floors.
For good behavior, youth can earn time to play video games or watch television.
A point system allows youth to “purchase” items to personalize their rooms, such as sheets, comforters and photo boards. At Scioto, one female inmate proudly displayed the GED certificate she earned while in the facility.
The Department of Youth Services is the end of the line for the state's most-dangerous youth, some of whom also have mental illness. About 500 youth are housed in four state institutions at taxpayers' expense — about $161,497 per youth annually. By comparison, locking up an adult in a Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections facility costs, on average, about $24,871 per year.
The administration's philosophy is that the youth should receive treatment in these facilities so they become successful members of society once they leave.
“We want them to go out of the door better than they came in the front door,” Reed said. “We want (staff) to go home and be excited about what they did and how kids change.”
But workers say this more-relaxed atmosphere breeds insubordination. Some say violence erupts because the youth think they can get away with acting out.
“The kids can do whatever they want to do. … There's no boundaries,” said a nurse who works at the Scioto facility.
The nurse also said employees at youth prisons admit that they're not equipped to handle the most mentally ill youth in the state.
The unnamed Circleville youth specialist told of a running joke among the staff: “He assaulted a staff, he got locked down for a few hours, he's out; OK, when is his pizza party?”
Rehabilitation can be difficult in an environment rife with gang activity. Gang leaders recruit new youth coming into the facilities and bully them into joining, said the Circleville youth specialist who declined to be named. These youth gangs often order “hits,” or assaults, on facility staff members or other youth.
“They get caught up in it, because if they don't, they'll get jumped,” the youth specialist said. “They get treatment, but to save face, they have to be big and bad.”
Prisons aren't the ideal setting for treatment and rehabilitation, but some youth are too dangerous to be left in their communities, said Lorenzo Sanchez, a Franklin County Juvenile Court magistrate.
“In the long run, we have to realize that (a juvenile correctional facility) is a prison,” he said. “You can call it the Department of Youth Services, but you can't get the same treatment in that facility as on the outside.”
Youth specialists say there's only so much they can do to discipline an inmate who is breaking rules.
“Let's face it. If (a youth) assaults staff and he gets 180 days added on, what's his punishment? How do you add time to him?” Blackford said, noting that youth must be released by the time they turn 21. As for other methods of discipline, he said, “There's kids who do seclusion time every day.”
Reed said his administration is working on the problems.
“We've strived to make our facilities safer with (a special management program) for use-of-force incidents and holding youth accountable for their behavior using graduated sanctions that include ‘intervention hearings,'” he said. “We continue to engage in two-way communication with our unions to address challenges.”
Some inmates become so comfortable in the juvenile prisons that they don't want to leave.
Beverly Wengerd, who along with her husband, owns the Guerne Heights Drive-In in Wooster, has an 18-year-old son who has been in Youth Services facilities for about four years on an assault conviction. As of November, he was incarcerated at the Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Massillon.
“I think it's just too comfortable there for him. There's not a big pressure put on if he doesn't want to ... complete the programming that he needs to complete,” she said.
“He knows that they can keep him there until he's 21, and he's already told me that he plans on staying there that long.”
Wengerd said she worries that when he gets out, he's going to re-offend.
“None of his teenage years were spent in society,” she said. “I have concerns about what he's going to do when he gets out because I don't know if he'll be able to integrate back in society.”
State Highway Patrol records show that one inmate in the Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility hit a youth specialist in the face with a rock because he was about to be released and wanted to get sent to adult prison.
When the inmate, Bobby Mayberry, 20 , finished his statement, he asked whether the state trooper could help him with something.
“Mayberry stated that the only reason he was acting out was because he was about to be released, and he wanted to ... be sent to the adult system. Mayberry said he did not want to be released because he did not want to re-offend and hurt anyone else,” the investigation report said.
He is currently locked up in the Grafton Correctional Institution, an adult prison in northeastern Ohio, on charges of felonious assault and aggravated menacing.
About half of those released from Youth Services facilities return to prison within three years.
Promise of reform
Agreements as a result of federal lawsuits were supposed to bring reform and force the Department of Youth Services to remedy problems present for decades.
In 2008, the state reached agreements in two lawsuits alleging unconstitutional treatment of youth in juvenile prisons. One lawsuit, United States v. State of Ohio, was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the other, S.H. v. Harvey Reed, by lawyers representing juvenile inmates.
The most-recent annual report, filed this month, said facilities are getting better.
“In some areas, like reducing the youth population in secure confinement and regionalizing services, Ohio has truly become a model to the nation,” wrote Will Harrell, who acts as a monitor and oversees the agreement between the state and those who sued. “These reforms have come about because of the hard work on the part of DYS's staff and administration.”
Still, Harrell noted problems in the system, including youth gangs that “exert a powerful negative influence” at Indian River, as well as staffing shortages and an increase of sexual misconduct in September and October of 2011 at the Scioto facility. In the Circleville facility, teachers aren't engaging students, and “poorly performing teachers must be identified and held accountable,” the report said.
“Although I believe there are ongoing deficiencies ... I take great pride in the work we have done together to improve the conditions in Ohio's juvenile correctional facilities,” Harrell wrote.
But prison staff members, as well as youth advocates, say that even after years of court monitoring, the facilities are still troubled. Violence is commonplace, youth aren't getting enough help for mental illnesses, gangs are prevalent and staff morale is low.
Descriptions filed with the lawsuits paint a grim picture of life inside the prisons, depicting abuse both physical and sexual, excessive isolation, and a lack of adequate medical and mental-health care.
A 2011 filing in the Department of Justice lawsuit describes allegations that juveniles made against staff members during a Scioto site visit by court monitors. Inmates said that some staff members:
Attempt to enter sexual relationships with youth and engage youth in discussions about sexual activity.
Berate or talk down to youth by calling them inappropriate terms, such as bitch, ho, or retard.
Bribe youth with food, snacks or extra free time in exchange for favors from the youth, such as filing a complaint against a disfavored youth.
Blackford described the disillusionment he experienced when he witnessed the violence and dysfunction in the youth prisons.
“I took this job three years ago thinking that I'm going to change some kids. And now I'm scorned, basically,” he said. “When you believe in something and that attitude starts to change … I haven't given up, but I'm getting kind of tired of it.”
While conditions are not ideal, some advocates acknowledge the progress in the youth prisons.
“They've gotten qualified staff,” said F. Edward Sparks, president of the Juvenile Justice Coalition, an Ohio organization that promotes community-based alternatives to incarceration.
The facilities have “child psychiatrists and other qualified staff members with specialties in mental health so kids had availabilities of those services that they didn't have before,” he said.
One success Youth Services points to is the dramatic reduction in population. The state closed four youth prisons in the past three years alone, and the number of juveniles incarcerated in the state-run institutions has dropped from nearly 2,000 in 2007, when the state operated seven youth prisons, to a little more than 500 in 2012.
The department is encouraging juvenile courts to send teens to community-based treatment programs instead of youth prisons, using the state prisons only as a last resort.
But in closing facilities, the state has left the four remaining youth prisons with Ohio's most-violent youthful offenders, making those institutions even more volatile.
Karl Wilkins, a youth specialist at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility, said the prison grew more violent when it took in most of the youth from the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility, which closed in 2011 and was located in Franklin Furnace.
“We received the worst-possible juveniles in the state, and that's what caused an increase in violence,” he said. “The closing of Ohio River Valley is a large part of it.”
The youth prisons are reaching a boiling point, according to staff members.
“I want other people outside of our little clique or group to know what's going on, and I hope somebody else will step in and say, ‘Hold on. We need to look at this and see what's happening,'” Blackford said.
“These kids are not getting help, and they're going back into society,” he said.
Pamela Engel is a fellow in Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.
Violence, gangs scar Chicago community in 2012
by Sharon Cohen
CHICAGO (AP) — It was February, the middle of lunch hour on a busy South Side street. The gunman approached his victim in a White Castle parking lot, shot him in the head, then fled down an alley.
The next month, one block away, also on West 79th Street: Two men in hooded sweatshirts opened fire at the Bishop Golden convenience store. They killed one young man and wounded five others, including a nephew of basketball superstar Dwyane Wade. The shooters got away in a silver SUV.
In July, a Saturday night, two men were walking on 79th when they were approached by a man who killed one and injured the other. This shooting resulted in a quick arrest; police had a witness, and a security camera caught the shooting.
These three violent snapshots of a single Chicago street are not exceptional. It's been a bloody year in the nation's third-largest city.
A spike in murders and shootings — much of it gang-related — shocked Chicagoans, spurred new crime-fighting strategies and left indelible images: Mayor Rahm Emanuel voicing outrage about gang crossfire that killed a 7-year-old named Heaven selling candy in her front yard. Panicked mourners scrambling as shots ring out on the church steps at a funeral for a reputed gang leader. Girls wearing red high school basketball uniforms, filing by the casket of a 16-year-old teammate shot on her porch.
A handful of neighborhoods were especially hard hit, among them Auburn-Gresham; the police district's 43 homicides (as of Dec. 21) ranked highest in the city, and represent an increase of about 20 percent over 2011. The outbreak, fueled partly by feuds among rival factions of Chicago's largest gang, the Gangster Disciples, rippled along 79th street, the main commercial drag. That single corridor offers a window into the wider mayhem that claimed lives, shattered families and left authorities scrambling for answers.
The scars aren't obvious, at first. Drive down West 79th and there's Salaam, a pristine white building of Islamic design, and The Final Call, the restaurant and newspaper operated by the Nation of Islam. Leo Catholic High School for young men. A health clinic. A beauty supply store. Around the corners, neat brick bungalows and block club signs warning: "No Littering. No Loitering. No Loud Music."
Look closer, though, and there are signs of distress and fear: Boarded-up storefronts. Heavy security gates on barber shops and food marts. Thick partitions separating cash registers from customers at the Jamaican jerk and fish joints. Police cars watching kids board city buses at the end of the school day.
Go a few blocks south of 79th to a food market where a sign bears a hand-scrawled message: "R.I.P. We Love You Eli," honoring a clerk killed in November in an apparent robbery. Or a block north to the front lawn of St. Sabina church where photos were added this year to a glass-enclosed memorial for young victims of deadly violence over the years.
Then go back to a corner of 79th, across the street and down the block from where two killings occurred, both gang-related.
There, in an empty lot, a wooden cross stands tall in the winter night. Painted in red is a plea:
Chicago's murder count reached 500 last Friday — the first time since 2008 it hit that mark. In 2011, there were 435 homicides. More than 2,400 shootings have occurred. Gang-related arrests are about 7,000 higher than in 2011.
Gang violence isn't new, but it became a major theme in the Chicago narrative this year.
Maybe it was because of the audacity of gang members posting YouTube videos in which they flashed wads of cash and guns. The sight of police brandishing automatic weapons, standing watch outside gang funerals. The sting of one more smiling young face on a funeral program. Or dramatic headlines in spring and summer, such as: "13 people shot in Chicago in 30-minute period."
It was alarming enough for President Obama to mention it during the campaign, noting murders near his South Side home. Then, addressing gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, he cited Chicago again.
As grim as it is, Chicago's murder rate was almost double in the early 1990s — averaging around 900 — before violent crime began dropping in cities across America. This year's increase, though, is a sharp contrast to New York, where homicides fell 21 percent from 2011, as of early December.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says while murders and shootings are up, overall crime citywide is down about 9 percent. He says crime-fighting strategies against gangs — some just put into place this year — are working, but they take time.
"The city didn't get in this shape overnight," he says. "I think that we're doing ourselves a disservice by advertising a Vietnam-type body count. I've got to tell you when I speak to people ... they generally say, 'You know what? We don't even hear that anymore. It's white noise.'... The fascination unfortunately seems to be in the media and it's become a national obsession."
After the 500th homicide was reported, McCarthy released a statement saying the pace of violent crime had slowed since early 2012. Murders skyrocketed 66 percent in the first quarter of the year over the same period in 2011; by the fourth quarter, the increase had dropped to 15 percent, he said. For shootings, it was a 40 percent hike in the first quarter and 11 percent in the last quarter compared with 2011. The superintendent called the numbers "great progress."
Up to 80 percent of Chicago's murders and shootings are gang-related, according to police. By one estimate, the city has almost 70,000 gang members. A police audit last spring identified 59 gangs and 625 factions; most are on the South and West sides.
Gangs in Chicago have a long, dangerous history, some operating with the sophistication and hierarchy of corporations. In the 1980s, the leaders of the El Rukns were convicted of conspiring in a terrorism-for-hire scheme designed to collect millions from the Libyan government. Before the feds took down the leadership of the Gangster Disciples in the 1990s, the group had its own clothing line and political arm.
Nowadays, gangs are less structured and disputes more personal, says Eric Carter, commander of the Gresham district, home to 11 factions of the Gangster Disciples. "It's strictly who can help me make money," he says. "Lines have become blurred and alliances have become very fragile."
Carter says a gang narcotics dispute that started about six years ago is at the root of a lot of violence in his district.
Another change among gangs is the widespread use of YouTube, Facebook and other social media to taunt one another and spread incendiary messages. "One insult thrown on Facebook and Twitter becomes the next potential for a shooting incident on the street," Carter says.
McCarthy, who has consulted with criminologists, has implemented several plans, including an audit that identifies every gang member and establishing a long-term police presence in heavy drug-dealing areas, aimed at drying up business.
In two districts, police also have partnered controversially with CeaseFire Illinois, an anti-violence group that has hired convicted felons, including former gang members, to mediate street conflicts. McCarthy, who has expressed reservations about the organization, is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"It's a work in progress," he says. "It hasn't shown a lot of success yet."
AMONG THE DEAD
An 18-year-old walking on a sidewalk. A 36-year-old at a backyard party. A 28-year-old in a car two blocks from the police station. A 40-year-old convenience store clerk, on the job just two months.
In a storefront on 79th, Curtis Toler has a map of the street and surrounding area with 10 stick pins. Each represents a homicide in 2012.
Toler, a former gang member, spent much of his life causing chaos. Now, he's preaching calm. As a supervisor at CeaseFire, his job is to ease tensions and defuse disputes before they explode.
Violence, he says, has become so commonplace, people are desensitized to death.
"I don't think we take it as hard as we should," he says. "When someone gets killed, there should be an uproar. But the ambulance comes, scoops them up, nobody says anything and it's back to business."
Toler's own life was shaped by guns and drugs. "In the early '90s, I was going to funerals back to back to back," he says. "When you're out there, you think you pretty much got it coming. It's a kill-or-be-killed mentality."
As he tells it, he was in a gang (in another neighborhood) from ages 9 to 30, including a six-year prison stint for involuntary manslaughter. He was shot six times, he says; he lifts a gray stocking cap pulled low over his head and presses a thumb over his right eyebrow to show the spot where a bullet struck. "I was blessed" to survive, he says, with a gap-toothed smile.
He was once so notorious, Toler says, that one day about a decade ago his grandmother returned from a community policing gathering and began crying. "She said, 'The whole meeting was about you. ... You and your friends are destroying the whole community. ... You're my grandson, but they're talking about you like you're an animal.'"
Now a 35-year-old father of four, Toler says he decided to go straight about five years ago. He knows some police don't believe his transformation. He regrets things he's done, he says, and for a time had trouble sleeping. "Life has its way of getting back at you one way or another," he says. "I believe in the law of reciprocity."
Toler's message to a new generation on the streets: I keep asking them,' What's the net worth on your life? There is no price.... You only get one. It's not a video game.'"
"You get some guys who listen," Toler says, "and some who really don't care. ... They say, 'I'm going to die anyway.'"
Two blocks east in another storefront on 79th, Carlos Nelson works to bring a different kind of stability to Gresham.
As head of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corp., he lures businesses to a community that despite its problems, has well-established merchants and middle-class residents who've lived here for decades.
But Nelson, a 49-year-old engineering graduate raised in Gresham, sees changes since he was a kid, most notably the easy access to guns. "These aren't six-shooters," he says. "These are automatic weapons."
Police say they've seized more than 7,000 guns in arrests this year. Strict gun control measures in Chicago and Illinois have been tossed out by federal courts, most recently the state ban on carrying concealed weapons.
Nelson says he sees limited progress despite new crime-fighting approaches. "The Chicago police department is a lot like a rat on a wheel," he says. "They're getting nowhere. They put metal detectors in the schools but they don't put that same amount of money in to educate our kids."
But Nelson also believes the problem goes beyond policing. A cultural shift is needed, he says, to break the cycle of generations of young men seeing no options.
"It's almost like the walking dead," he says. "They're emotionless about shootings or death or drugs. They think that's all that's expected of them ... that they will die or end up in jail. That's a hell of an existence. That's truly sad."
AMONG THE LIVING
A 17-year-old hit in the leg, wrist and foot while in a park. A 13-year-old struck in the back while riding his bicycle, A 38-year-old shot in the face while driving.
Cerria McComb tried to run when the bullet exploded in her leg, but she didn't get far.
Someone heard her screams, her mother says, and rushed outside to help her make a call.
"Mommy, mommy, I've been shot!" Cerria cried into the phone.
Bobbie McComb ran six blocks, her husband outpacing her. "I'm panicking," she recalls. "I can't catch my breath. All I could think of was I didn't want it to be the last time I heard her voice, the last time I saw her."
Cerria and a 14-year-old male friend were wounded. The bullet lodged just an inch from an artery in the back of Cerria's right knee, according to her mother, who says her daughter is afraid to go out since the early December shooting.
Police questioned a reputed gang member they believe was the intended target; Cerria, they say, just happened to be in the wrong place.
"I'm angry," McComb says. "I'm frustrated. I'm tired of them shooting our kids, killing our kids, thinking they can get away with it. ... If it was my son or my daughter standing out there with a gun, I would call the police on them."
A few blocks west, on 78th Place, another mother, Pam Bosley, sits at the youth center of St. Sabina Church, trying to keep teens on track. The parish is run by the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a firebrand white priest in an overwhelmingly black congregation whose crusades against violence, drugs and liquor and cigarette billboards are a staple of local news.
Bosley's 18-year-old son, Terrell, a college freshman and gospel bass player, was killed in 2006 when he and friends were shot while unloading musical equipment outside a church on the far South Side. A man charged was acquitted.
"I think about him all day and all night," Bosley says of her son. "If I stop, I'll lose my mind."
Bosley works with kids 14 to 21, teaching them life and leadership skills and ways to reduce violence. Sometimes, she says, neglectful parents are the problem; often it's gangs who just don't value life.
"You know how you have duck (hunting) season in the woods?" she asks. "In urban communities, it's duck season for us every day. You never know when you're going to get shot."
In December, Bosley phoned to console the grieving mother of Porshe Foster, 15, who was shot a few miles away while standing outside with other kids. A young man in the group has said he believed the gunman was aiming at him.
"I know how it feels to wake up in your house without your child, and you don't want to get out of bed, you don't feel like living," Bosley says.
St. Sabina is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Bosley sent balloons to the girl's funeral.
On Dec. 6, hundreds celebrated the A-student who liked architecture and played on her school's volleyball and basketball teams.
Her brother, Robert, 22, says his sister "knew what was going on in the streets as well as we did," but he didn't worry because she was either at school, home or church.
"She was always a good girl," he says. "She didn't have to look over her shoulder. She was a 15-year-old girl. She didn't ever do any wrong to anybody."
In March, St. Sabina parishioners, led by the Rev. Pfleger, marched through the streets in protest, calling out gang factions by name. They planted the "Stop Killing" cross on 79th.
In April, the priest and other pastors returned to 79th to successfully stop the reopening of a store where there was a mass shooting; they condemned it as a haven for gangs.
In December, Pfleger stood in his church gym, watching gang members hustle down the basketball court.
On this Monday night, in this gym, it was hard to tell who was who.
The basketball teams wore different colored T-shirts with the same word: Peacemaker. They're all part of Pfleger's 12-week basketball league, aimed at cooling gang hostilities by having rivals face each other on the court. Many players, from 16 to 27, have criminal records.
The league grew out of a single successful game this fall and has high-profile supporters, including Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls.
Pfleger says the games have helped players build relationships, see beyond gang affiliation and stop shooting each other, at least for now.
"I have people tell me I'm naive, I'm stupid, I should be ashamed of myself working with these gangs," he says. "I could care less. We've demonized them so much we forget they're human beings."
But Pfleger also says games alone won't change anything. These young men need jobs and an education, and he's working on that.
"When there's no alternative," he says, "you'll continue to do what you do."
From the FBI
2012 - The Year in Review --
A Look at FBI Cases, Part 1
The FBI worked thousands of investigations during 2012, involving everything from extremists bent on terror to cyber thieves, financial fraudsters, and child predators. As the year comes to a close, we take our annual look back at some of the Bureau's most significant cases.
Part 1 focuses on our top investigative priority —protecting the nation from terrorist attack. Working with local, state, federal, and international partners, we thwarted a number of potential attacks on U.S. citizens at home and abroad.
Here are some of the top terror cases of 2012, in reverse chronological order:
Alabama men arrested on terrorism charges: Two U.S. citizens living in Alabama were arrested in December and charged with planning to travel overseas to wage violent jihad. The pair met online and later confided their plans to an individual who —unbeknownst to them—was a confidential source working for the FBI. Details
Plot to destroy Ohio bridge: Four men were sentenced to prison in November for their role in a conspiracy to destroy a bridge near Cleveland. The men—all self-proclaimed anarchists—pled guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. The group allegedly planned a series of crimes in the Cleveland area. Details
Conspiracy to provide support to terrorists: Four men were charged in Los Angeles in November with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists after they allegedly made arrangements to join al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill Americans, among others. Details
Plot to attack Pentagon and U.S. Capitol: Also in November, a 27-year-old man was sentenced in Boston to 17 years in prison for plotting an attack on American soil and attempting to provide detonation devices to terrorists. The man built detonators for improvised explosive devices and provided them to FBI undercover operatives he believed were members of al Qaeda. Details
Attempted bombing of New York Federal Reserve Bank: A 21-year-old Bangladeshi national was arrested in October for attempting to detonate a 1,000-pound bomb in Lower Manhattan to strike the U.S. financial system on behalf of al Qaeda. The man allegedly traveled to the U.S. in January 2012 specifically to conduct a terrorist attack. Details
Plot to attack U.S. Capitol: A 29-year-old Virginia resident was sentenced to 30 years in prison in September for attempting to carry out a suicide bomb attack at the U.S. Capitol in February 2012. Details
Plan to send weapons to Iraqi Insurgents: A former resident of Iraq residing in Kentucky pled guilty to terrorism charges in August for attempting to send Stinger missiles and other weapons to Iraq to be used against U.S. soldiers. Details
‘Revolution' leader sentenced: A New York City resident was sentenced in June to more than 11 years in prison for using his position as a leader of the Revolution Muslim organization to promote violent extremism online against those he believed to be enemies of Islam. Details
Violent extremists in Alaska: Also in June, the leader of an Alaska militia was found guilty of conspiring to murder federal officials and possessing illegal firearms including silencers and grenade launchers. Details
Supporting terrorism: A 45-year-old Philadelphia resident was arrested in March and charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, an extremist organization responsible for bombings and attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Details
Next: Fraud, fugitives, espionage, and more.