New report says Chicago street gangsters moving to suburbs

Monday, June 19, 2006

The first major study in more than a decade of Chicago street gangs shows that those gangs are now a major problem in the suburbs. The report says one reason for the move is the pressure put on gangs by Chicago police. Most suburbs don't have the same money and manpower to combat the gangs.

The Gang Book is not much in the way of original material. It is a compilation of research and investigation into local gangs done mostly by city and suburban law enforcement agencies during the past decade. However, the Chicago Crime Commission did arrive at its own conclusions and some were more controversial than others.

"These street gangs are a ready-made army for al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups," said Jim Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.

The crime commission president tried to sell the idea that Chicago street gangs -- most of them black and Latino and deeply involved in the distribution of drugs -- could somehow enlist themselves to the cause of foreign terrorists.

"It would appear that it would be easy for a front group working for al Qaeda, not identifying them as such, to do business with them and they wouldn't have any hesitation, I don't believe, because they are about the dollar," Wagner said.

The terrorism theory is detailed in the commission's just published Gang Book, a 272-page overview of Chicago street gangs. It also includes visuals of gang tattoos, graffiti and hand signs, and mug shots of Chicago and suburban gang leaders, the vast majority of whom are imprisoned.

The book also repeated a trend reported at least a decade ago by local law enforcement, that city street gangs have moved into the suburbs.

"Last week on my block they were shooting and I have never seen that before," said December Blue, Maywood resident.

Maywood resident December Blue says gangs off Chicago's West Side are now entrenched in her suburb and village police are barely keeping up.

"They try to control it. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say the police probably have maybe like a 7 on it," Blue said.

The crime commission report cites the effectiveness of Chicago police in driving out gangs for the growing problem in the suburbs.

"I have definitely read reports of interviews of gang members where they say they will go that the suburbs to try to avoid Chicago police enforcement," said Cmdr. Nicholas Roti, Chicago Police Department.

The crime commission recommended that suburban police departments pool their resources to confront their growing gang problem. President Wagner suggested the Department of Homeland Security spend more money fighting street gangs, which he called "the enemy within."

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