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The Killing Fields of Chicago

Organized Crime Gang Territories

Once Vibrant Chicago Neighborhoods are Carved Into Gang Territories

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority has released new data showing that street gang violence continues to escalate in the City of Chicago, despite mounting public awareness and the glut of Class-X, “get tough on crime” statutes that have breezed through the Illinois General Assembly in the past decade.

[Read about Gangster Disciple Leader Larry Hoover's Rise, and Hoover's Convictions.]

Until 1990, the number of gang-related homicides did not surpass 100 in any given year. These numbers rose dramatically in the early 1990s when a series of vicious turf wars erupted between the Black Disciples and Larry Hoover’s Black Gangster Disciples, commonly known as the G.D.s.

Violence was endemic in the Latino neighborhoods of the city as well, particularly in the Humboldt Park community on the Northwest Side and in the Little Village, southwest of the Loop, where the Latin Kings, the oldest and most established Hispanic gang with satellite branches on the East Coast, engaged in periodic shootouts with their rivals, the Two-Six, an opposition gang numbering 800 at its peak strength.

The Latin Kings are considered the violent aggressor, but together these two gangs account for 70% of the violence in the area. Between 1987 and 1994, 44 of the 63 reported homicides stemmed from warfare between these two groups for control of the Little Village, a stratified Mexican-American community with well-maintained single dwelling homes surrounding the 26th Street business corridor. It is one of seven “hotspot” areas identified by the ICJIA where armed violence is likely to occur.

Unlike the G.D.’s, Vice Lords, and lesser gangs who have seized control of the African American neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, the Hispanic gangs are less involved in the drug trade - though a cocaine and marijuana pipeline stretching from the interior of Mexico to Chicago continues. Hispanic gangbanging is mainly about machismo, the superiority of one individual or one gang over another.

The corresponding rise in gang violence coincides with the increased usage of semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons. Prior to 1991, when the homicide rate began its steady upward climb, the weapon of choice was the .38 caliber handgun. In the next few years the incidents of street homicides involving semiautomatic and automatic weapons jumped from 11 to 150 (during a seven-year period 1987-1994).

Meanwhile, the average age of the shooters dropped. In a 30-year period dating back to 1965, the ICJIA tracked 29 youthful offenders between 10 and 14-years of age involved in gang-related shootings. They found that 25 of these homicides - a full 86% - occurred between 1991-1994.

Seventy-five street gangs were blamed for the 53,141 gang-related criminal offenses tracked by the Chicago Police Department during that corresponding seven-year period. The majority of these offenses, at least half of them, were committed by members of the largest, best organized street gangs - the G.D.s, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings.

Evidence presented by government prosecutors at the recently concluded Larry Hoover trial outlined the full extent of control of Hoover’s Gangster Disciples in Chicago neighborhoods. South and West Side communities have been partitioned into spheres of influence with a “Governor,” “Assistant Governor,” and “Regent” responsible for drug trafficking and enforcing gang discipline within that territory - some areas are only a few city blocks in size.

Separate sheets seized by the feds in their campaign to rid Chicago of this menace, identified local leadership, the size of the gang, and a list of “opposing forces” - rival gangs active in the neighborhood whose identities are elaborately encrypted with a system of numbers indicating the estimated numerical strength of the rival gangs. The example below is an organizational chart for the Rockwell Gardens housing project and the surrounding West Side area at 19th and Kedzie Avenue.

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