It’s a sad sign of the times when the Chicago Sun-Times has taken to writing one “two-fer” article to report on couple of recent shooting deaths in Chicago.

Today’s paper carries one story about two unrelated homicides from Wednesday, December 3.  According to police, Sergio Dukes, 18, was shot in the head twice and once in the chest in the 9600 block of South Indiana Avenue, after leaving a high school basketball game at Harlan High School.  Christopher Hanford, 19, was shot in the face in the 900 block of North Lawler Avenue, according to police.

Detectives are investigating both incidents, and no one is yet in custody.

Two lives lost, one article with barely any details about the men who died. Two unrelated lives lost in two unrelated instances, and one article article to show.

My criticism is not with the Sun-Times.  I know revenues have been down, there are fewer reporters, and there are oh-so-many homicides in Chicago.

Rather, I’m calling our attention to who we are once again, who we have become.  We hear no outrage from Chicago’s City Council or Mayor Daley on these deaths.  These men were not shot at the city’s lucrative Taste of Chicago.  The pols are not posturing as they did this summer.  No one is calling Jodi Weis in to testify this time.

Two men shot dead and nary a whimper.

We need to ask the big questions about who we have become as a society.

One group not afraid to ask the big questions is CeaseFire Chicago.  I heard CeaseFire make a presentation once at a workshop at Prairie State College.  They involve themselves with gang members for the express purpose of lessening gang violence.

From their Web site:

The Chicago Project has designed and tested a new intervention — CeaseFire — that approaches violence in a fundamentally different way than other violence reduction efforts. CeaseFire works with community-based organizations and focuses on street-level outreach, conflict mediation, and the changing of community norms to reduce violence, particularly shootings.

CeaseFire relies on highly trained outreach workers and violence interrupters, faith leaders, and other community leaders to intervene in conflicts, or potential conflicts, and promote alternatives to violence. CeaseFire also involves cooperation with police and it depends heavily on a strong public education campaign to instill in people the message that shootings and violence are not acceptable. Finally, it calls for the strengthening of communities so they have the capacity to exercise informal social control and to mobilize forces — from businesses to faith leaders, residents and others — so they all work in concert to reverse the epidemic of violence that has been with us for too long.

The group has had funding issues in the past, but received $400,000 in grants this past summer, thanks to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis:

The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded two grants to CeaseFire to continue its violence intervention work in Chicago’s West Garfield Park and West Humboldt Park neighborhoods.

The grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice total $400,000 and will allow CeaseFire, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, to keep workers on the street to intervene and mediate conflicts and to stop shootings and killings.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago) expressed strong support for CeaseFire as an integral part of a comprehensive strategy to stop violence, especially shootings, in Chicago and elsewhere.

“In recent months, the Chicago area has seen an alarming increase in gang-related shootings and violence. Half of all homicides in Chicago have been linked to gangs,” Durbin said.

“We must continue to fight gang violence through a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes gang enforcement, prevention and intervention measures. Today’s grant for the CeaseFire program will help strengthen the overall effort to reduce gang violence in the region,” Durbin said.

“CeaseFire is an evidence-based program that really works, and we’re very pleased to see that the Justice Department is responding by providing some resources to work with it,” said Davis.

A recent three-year evaluation of CeaseFire, commissioned by the Department of Justice, validated the CeaseFire model as an intervention that reduces shooting and killings and makes communities safer. The report, led by Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University, found the program to be “effective,” with “significant” and “moderate-to-large impact,” and with effects that are “immediate.”

In one of the many missteps of his administration, Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut the state’s entire $6.2 million allocation for CeaseFire in August 2007.  In the aftermath of these cuts, 96 of the program’s 130 conflict mediators lost their jobs, and gang violence escalated yet again in Chicago.

Thanks to Durbin and Davis, CeaseFire has some solvency again.

But it’s not enough.

Mayor Daley and the rest of us need to whine about the killings again.  The State of Illinois needs to fund CeaseFire again.

We can’t afford any more “two-fer” homicide articles in the Sun-Times.