Police 'outmanned' by growing gang population

February 25, 2011 4:24:53 PM PST
In this Intelligence Report: "Outmanned." Street gang membership in Chicago and the suburbs is at least twice as big as city and outlying police departments.

It's due in part to a surge in the Chicago region's gang population related to Mexican cartels taking hold of illegal drug sales.

There are more gangbangers in metro Chicago than there are residents in Orland Park and Glenview combined, at least 100,000 gang members, according to the latest intelligence from a top federal enforcement agency in Chicago.

The growing gang population is a problem for outmanned police and an employment resource for the Mexican drug cartels.

Chicago and suburban police say between 75 and 100 street gangs operate criminal rackets. Authorities say the crime index, especially the murder count, is a barometer of whether there is peace between gangs.

"It ain't just the Chicago police...you got the feds, the U.S. Marshals...anybody picking up guns is gonna do fed time," said parolee Emoney Green.

Green was among 60 parolees and current and former gang members who were frisked and searched Thursday night before attending a summit with Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis and top Chicago police officials.

Although police didn't talk, saying the summit was not public, some in attendance said it was to cool tempers and tension and prevent street violence. But some said those in attendance hold little sway over gangbangers.

"The people I see is the people that's no longer affiliated," said Lamont Burr, an ex-gang member. "We can't tell these young guys what to do. We might go down there every week and tell them to put the guns up. They put 'em up, but then it's right back, more violence."

For law enforcement, the growing gang problem is compounded by two Mexican drug cartels that have recruited Chicago street gangs to distribute cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

"You've got over 100,000 gang members," said Jack Riley, Special Agent in Charge for the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "At some point those cartels have to interface with the street gang members that control the dope that's going out on the street. That to me is what I refer to as a choke point. There's the opportunity for violence to flare up between the cartels and the street gangs as they're both positioning themselves to make money."

This week, Riley coordinated federal drug agents in Chicago who were involved in a nationwide takedown of Mexican drug cartels. More than 100 drug suspects were arrested, and millions of dollar in cash and dope were seized along with dozens of guns.