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Secret Meeting With Gang Leaders Results In Decreased Chicago Crime

Secret Meeting With Gang Leaders Results In Decreased Chicago Crime

Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix

February 14, 2011

CHICAGO – A secret face-to-face meeting with gang leaders last summer won Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis harsh criticism from aldermen who said he was “negotiating with urban terrorists.”

But the controversial sit-down and new police strategies — both imported from Cincinnati and Boston — cut murders in high-crime parts of the West Side by 40 percent, Weis said Sunday.

The 15 homicides in the Harrison District between the Aug. 17 meeting and the end of 2010 were 10 less than the 25 the district suffered over the same period in 2009 — statistics that “speak for themselves,” the Supt. said.

And Weis said the arrests of more than 60 members of the Black Souls street gang after its members failed to heed his orders to stop the bloodshed in a district that incorporates parts of Garfield Park and Humboldt Park were proof he was “not negotiating” with gangs.

The Supt. warned during the August meeting at the Garfield Park Conservatory that the gang responsible for the next murder in the district would face the wrath of his department. When Black Souls member Sharod Pierce allegedly gunned down 18-year-old Anthony Carter two weeks later on Aug. 31, the Black Souls were “self-selected” for the police crackdown, Weis said.

A second operation against the Travelling Vice Lords gang — identified as the district’s most violent — saw more than 100 other gang members charged, including 30 men charged in federal court, police said.

In both cases, officers worked with Harvard Prof. Andrew Papachristos to identify the most influential gang members. By drawing maps of the social networks that link offenders, they were able to pinpoint nine key members of the Black Souls whose importance was underestimated by traditional police work and gang organization charts, Acting Deputy Supt. Brian Murphy said.

Papachristos said the analysis — which has been used to reduce murders in Boston, Cincinnati and Minneapolis — was based on the theory that crime is “a lot like sex — who you mess around with is going to get you in trouble,” but said it relies on good information from beat officers.

The 1,600 gang members included in the analysis made up just 2 percent of the Harrison’s district’s population, but accounted for 70 percent of its homicides, he said. While other residents of the district are three times more likely to be murdered than the average Chicago resident, the gang members are more than 100 times more likely to be killed, statistics show.

Police could not say how many gang leaders who attended the August meeting took up offers of social work, education and job training, but Papachristos said the next round up of gang leaders — scheduled to take place within two weeks — should be more effective, because, “the gang leaders now know that police are serious.”

Neither Ald. Joe Moore (49th) nor Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) — who together led the criticism of Weis’s meeting last summer — returned calls seeking comment Sunday.


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