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updated: 10/19/2012 9:18 AM

ABC special shines light on Chicago violence

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Associated Press

NEW YORK -- ABC News said it wanted to step beyond reporting on the gang violence in Chicago to explore ways of reducing it.

The network, as shown in reports airing on Thursday and Friday, helped organize a summit that brought 38 former and present gang members together to discuss what is going on.

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"We don't want to go in and do another story that simply tells you about the crushing, tragic slaughter taking place on a lot of weekends there," said "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer on Thursday. "So we started to think, 'What could we do to be helpful?' We know that's a dream."

There have been more than 400 murders in Chicago this year, with the murder rate four times what it is in New York, ABC said. One gang member who participated in ABC's discussion had been arrested 50 times and was shot after the Sept. 14 meeting being shown in Friday's "Nightline" special.

Sawyer said she felt it was ABC's job to listen to what everyone is saying and was struck by how many youngsters, when the bravado is stripped away, expressed wishes that something could be done to change the atmosphere.

ABC correspondent Alex Perez, who grew up in Chicago and wrote an ABC News blog item about how one of his childhood friends was gunned down in gang violence, joins Sawyer on the story.

Sawyer said she tried to draw viewers into the story by profiling a 7-year-old boy whose grandmother was killed and who has a fortress in his bedroom. He hears gunshots outside his home at all hours. He's typical of the young people ABC speaks to who just want the chance to grow up.

"We can all imagine being that child," Sawyer said. "Maybe not everyone can imagine being at that crossroads and making the decision ... that leads to the streets. But we can all imagine being little Ralph."

The reports on Chicago, part of ABC News' "Hidden America" series, will air on "World News" and "Nightline" on Friday.

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