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Former top cop sees alarming trends in gang murders

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chicago police are celebrating the lowest murder rate since 1965. But a former police superintendent said he sees some alarming trends in both murders and the gang members who frequently commit them.

"The residents of Chicago need to know - they deserve to know, that crime is headed in the right direction," said former superintendent Jody Weis. "We're nowhere where we need to be."

For three years Jody Weis received briefings twice a day on who was being killed, where and why in the city of Chicago.

He still keeps an eye on the stats - and trends - in his relatively new job as president of the Chicago Crime Commission.

The year 2011 ended with five fewer murders than the previous year.

But Weis said he sees cause for concern in what happened in the final few months of 2011.

"If you look at it like a football team it might be like having a 12 and 4 season," Weis said. "The problem is if those four losses are at the end of the season, are you really satisfied with how the team is playing and I liken that to the last four months of the year. Murders were up 25-percent."

The surge in killings last fall coincided with a decision to disband the department's Targeted Response and other units that flood hot spots with officers for a few weeks, then move on.

New Superintendent Garry McCarthy sees that as a band-aid approach. Instead he hopes permanently re-assigning those officers to high-crime districts will knock down the number of shootings - and therefore murders - long-term.

Last year Chicago police say gang members were involved in 66 percent of the city's murders.

And gangs are a huge focus of Weis' work at the crime commission.

Later this week he'll unveil the newest edition of the "Gang Book."

Researchers found the Chicago-area has between 68,000 and 150,000 gang members. That's more than the entire population of many suburbs.

More murders can be attributed to gangs. In 2005, fewer than 50 percent of all murders had gang ties. Now two-thirds do.

And more people have multiple gang memberships.

Experts think that's been inspired by the demolition of the large housing projects and scattering of residents across traditional gang boundaries.

"Younger guys, not as mature, not as disciplined," Weis said. "They can't exercise a sphere of control any wider than maybe a block or two but they're every bit as dangerous and every bit as violent."

Last week Weis' successor in the superintendent spot marked the first murder-free day in Chicago in nearly a year.

If trends hold true, having "another" day without death will be many months away.

On Friday the Chicago Crime Commission is hosting a seminar at Loyola University downtown called "Gangs: What do we know, What's being done and What's left to learn."

For more information, visit www.chicagocrimecommission.org

Gangs: What do we know, What's being done, and What's left to learn Friday January 27, 2012
Breakfast and Registration 8:30 a.m.- 9:00 a.m.
Panel Discussion 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
111 East Pearson Chicago, IL 60611 Beane Hall, 13th Floor Lewis Towers Loyola University

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