Chicago’s ridiculously high murder rate is largely driven by gang activity. And that’s not an exaggeration. Chicago has over 600 gang factions and their gang wars are responsible for much of the city’s death toll.
80 to 60 percent of Chicago’s murders are estimated to be gang related, with some gangs boasting tens of thousands of members.
Chicago politicians advocate fiercely for national gun control. And meanwhile they cozy up to the very gangs doing the killing.
At some of the meetings, the politicians arrived with campaign materials and occasionally with aides. The sessions were organized much like corporate-style job fairs. The gang representatives conducted hourlong interviews, one after the other, talking to as many as five candidates in a single evening. Like supplicants, the politicians came into the room alone and sat before the gang representatives, who sat behind a long table.
The former chieftains, several of them ex-convicts, represented some of the most notorious gangs on the South and West Sides, including the Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Cobras, Black P Stones, and Black Gangsters. Before the election, the gangs agreed to set aside decades-old rivalries and bloody vendettas to operate as a unified political force, which they called Black United Voters of Chicago.
More than a quarter of those killed in Chicago last year were with the Gangster Disciples. Not a quarter of gang members. A quarter of all those killed. That’s 100 dead in just one cross-section of the gang wars.
The gang representatives were interested in electing aldermen sympathetic to their interests and those of their impoverished wards. As for the politicians, says Baskin, their interests essentially boiled down to getting elected or reelected. “All of [the political hopefuls] were aware of who they were meeting with,” he says. “They didn’t care. All they wanted to do was get the support.”
One wonders if Obama ever participated in similar meetings at any time. And what do the gangs offer Chicago politicians? A street army of their own.
Gangs can provide a decisive advantage at election time by performing the kinds of chores patronage armies once did.
“An alderman ain’t nothing without the backing of the neighborhood,” says a top-level Gangster Disciple from the South Side. “Without the gangs, it’s hard [for politicians] to exist.”
A Latin King, interviewed at Cook County Jail, recalls how the top leader of his gang, the Corona, ordered every member in his area to vote for Ricardo Muñoz, the 22nd Ward alderman. “Every chapter had to vote for that guy, anyone who was eligible to vote,” says the Latin King. “That was a direct order. That means you can’t say no. If you do, you face a violation”—typically a beating, or worse.
Democracy. Chicago style.
The gangs funnel their largess through opaque businesses, or front companies, and through under-the-table payments. In turn, grateful politicians use their payrolls or campaign funds to hire gang members, pull strings for them to get jobs or contracts, or offer other favors
Most alarming, both law enforcement and gang sources say, is that some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.
… like gun control.