In September of last year, Chicago police announced they were “going after the gangs” in an apparent bid to reduce crime. However, it is now a year later and the number of shootings and gang-related violence has yet to dwindle. Police Superintendent David Brown said that he wanted it well known, the Chicago police will be going after the gangs. He also mentioned that they would be doing it Constitutionally and without violating anyone’s rights.
Gang violence remains a major problem in Chicago and across the U.S. with gangs handling drug and weapons trafficking and becoming involved in an increasing number of identity thefts. Police struggle to keep up with the problem largely because they have lost control of the territories they patrol. This is not a new phenomenon. The birth of gangs in the U.S. relates to under-policing in certain districts. Instead of paying police for protection out of your tax dollars, you pay gangs for protection. The gangs identify and eliminate potential threats to the community. However, remaining solvent over the years has proven troublesome and the public does not trust the police enough to protect them if they provide information. In terms of hearts and minds, police have lost that battle largely due to abuses committed over the years by Chicago police officers who would have been happier operating out of gangs than within law enforcement. The following are some of the structural problems that allow gangs to thrive in cities.
Hearts and Minds
From the public’s perspective, they are caught in the middle of a war waged by police and the gangs against each other and other gangs. Injuries and deaths related to stray bullets are as common a threat as car accidents. So, why aren’t the communities banding together to prevent the gangs from operating in their areas?
Initially, the covenant between the gangs and the public was similar to the covenant between the police and the community. The gangs offered protection from outside threats and prevented other gangs from taking over their territory and exploiting or intimidating the people. The locals paid the gangs for the privilege. In many cases, the resources were not there to protect the locals from the criminal threats they faced and so they turned to the gangs to provide that protection. It was a lack of police presence and effective policing that gave rise to the gangs in the first place.
Today, we have a completely different image of gangs as criminal organizations that do high-risk labor on behalf of smugglers. They protect their territory from an incursion of other gangs but harm their communities more than they help them. While police presence in these communities is not completely absent, police tend to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of criminal activity they are expected to stop. Meanwhile, they still lack the trust of the community.
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