The Gang Wars Within

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Chicago police arrested three gang members in Little Village for a string of robberies over a 16 month period. One of the gang members had previously been convicted on murder of a 13 year old girl. A 17 year old boy was shot in the head in Bronzeville over the weekend, and died at hospital. These two events, and so many more like them, are all linked by gang activity that have made Chicago, and so many other major cities in the United States, that much more dangerous. In order for our children to go to school, the City of Chicago had to use guards to escort children mostly from Black and Latino communities to schools for these kids to cross gang boundaries where they would otherwise be shot. It is in my view only a partial solution. The gang boundaries are still there, and anyone who crosses them could still be shot.

And this is where the problem lies—since the Great Recession hit this country, gang activity has surged. Gang recruitment has also surged since so many young people live in low income areas worse affected by the Great Recession, jobs not available for so many racial and ethnic minorities especially, and hence no other way of making an honest living. After all this gang recruitment becomes only too easy. Despite the best efforts of the City of Chicago, the city just does not have the resources to fight those gangs who are into illegal activities and violence. What many people do not take into account is that gangs are not isolated groups. They connect and interact with other gangs in other towns and cities all through this country, and these networks are considerable. There are many gangs into the illicit drug trade, grand theft auto, prostitution, extortion and trafficking in people, network robberies, stealing peoples’ personal information on the Internet, threatening and intimidating people (even in high places), and contract murders.

Those gangs who perpetuate violence on this scale are a threat to the national social fabric of this country. No one city, no one county, no one state can fight the power of the gangs alone. This is something that has to be handled at the highest level of the U.S. government. I find it ironic that U.S. President Barack Obama has declared “war” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and is willing to mobilize the resources of the U.S. military to deal with these militants. Yet I hear of no corresponding plan to deal with those gangs who clearly are a threat to American lives and safety in this country. Obama says that if we do not stop these militants they will eventually make their way here to attack and kill Americans. This is exactly what those gangs who are committing all kinds of violence in this country are doing now. They are killing Americans; they are killing young children, they are dealing illicit drugs and stolen guns that cause death to tens of thousands of people every year, and they are scaring and intimidating people so frequently that they cannot step out their own front doors.

Why is it that the federal government will not deal with the war that is on our own doorstep? For too many Americans, this war is very real. It affects their everyday activity, it affects how their children live (not being able to go out and play, or even go to school lest they be shot), and it affects many businesses who may be the victims of gang activity or violence. I find it ironic that the U.S. government can claim that “we are broke” when it seems unable or unwilling to fight the enemy over here, but it is able to spend 7.5 million dollars a day to bomb ISIS thousands of miles away. If the federal government spent that kind of money everyday over here, our cities would be a lot safer, our children would be able to play outside without fear of being shot or kidnapped, and ordinary people who live in neighborhoods virtually run by the gangs would be able to live far more normal lives. Businesses would not need to fear being “shaken down” by the gangs, and business owners would not have to be concerned that their customers could be shot going to and from their stores.

But the U.S. government does not seem interested in the domestic realities of ordinary Americans these days. With our sidewalks and bridges growing old and crumbling, with people unable to find work and are barely able to make ends meet, and with crime becoming more of a problem, the politicians seem to be acting more holier than thou in regards to a conflict happening thousands of miles away rather than what is happening in their own backyard. I find it ironic that a 17 year old boy gets almost no media attention when he is shot and killed in the streets of an American city compared to two reporters brutally murdered thousands of miles away. Maybe there was or there was nothing we could have done for those hostages murdered by ISIS, but there is definitely something we can do to make our cities safer for our children by fighting the gangs. In my view, Washington, D.C. is at least one planet away from our American reality.

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