Chicago’s street gangs are legendary:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken criticism for Chicago’s skyrocketing homicide rate which stands this year at a shocking 19.4 per 100,000 residents. This is roughly triple the murder rate in New York City, is worse than in perennially crime-ridden Oakland and is within shouting distance of war-torn Afghanistan and Mexico, which are fighting vicious insurgencies. Even for Chicago, the current level of street violence is unusually brazen.
Chicago has always taken an ambivalent attitude toward it’s enormous, 100,000 strong, network of rival street gangs. Traditionally, part of the social fabric of Chicago’s ethnically divided wards, Chicago’s street gangs were far better organized and more ruthlessly disciplined than street gangs elsewhere, which allowed them a limited entree into participation in local politics. The Chicago Outfit from Al Capone’s day on controlled the votes in the old 1st Ward, ran several near suburbs like Cicero and recruited especially brutal sociopaths from the Forty-Two gang; the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley in his youth had been a thug for the Hamburg Athletic Club, the Democratic Party’s election-time enforcers in the 11th Ward. In more recent decades, the Black P. Stone Nation/El Rukns were Federal grantees and a number of powerful street gangs today use the Black United Voters of Chicago as a front group and cut-out to make deals with local politicians and swing aldermanic races.
However disturbing the status quo may have been in Chicago, it is potentially changing for the worse. Much worse.
How much worse?
The city may be nearly 2,000 miles from Mexico, but the country’s drug cartels are so deeply embedded in Chicago that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are “on the border,” according to Jack Riley, special agent in charge for the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The Mexican cartels have made the strategic decision to stay in the background, because they don’t want to incite a federal response to international terrorism.