Friday, April 25, 2008

Ground-level theories on rise in deaths

Mary Schmich of the Tribune talks to an academic about why he thinks there is a spike in violence in the past week and what can be done about it. It's really very interesting I just hope that whoever disseminates this information won't take it and run with it in a different direction...
We've heard that a lot lately, but professor Greg Scott has some contrarian ideas on the matter, especially the police's plan to keep the summer peace with aggressive tactics, including SWAT teams.

"There's nothing better for a gang than a good old-fashioned police raid," Scott said Wednesday. He was sitting in a West Side diner favored by gang leaders, raking a fork through his fried potatoes. "It just makes them stronger."

Professor Scott, PhD in sociology, has tenure and an office at DePaul, but the "professor" part may leave the wrong impression. Scott's arms are a riot of tattoos and his spiky red hair brings to mind David Caruso in "CSI: Miami."

He's spent years—he's 40—researching Chicago gangs by hanging out with them, originally while employed in the state attorney general's office. He doesn't claim to have dissected the mayhem that has provoked headlines like the one on AOL Thursday: "Chicago's Violent Spring Grows Deadlier."

But he believes treating gang members like terrorists just solidifies the gang, and terms like "gang-related crime" often mislead.

"A lot of the violence we hear about being caused by gangs is kids who do stupid stuff with a gun in their hand," he said. "If we did social autopsies of these crimes, we might realize that the crimes were motivated by factors more important than gang affiliation."

What, he asked, causes the most violence among gang members? Guns? Drugs?

"Disputes over females."

It's true, he said, that when spring arrives, violence is apt to flare because everybody comes outside. People who live in cramped apartments, people forced to move, drug dealers and drug buyers—everybody's out.
He mentions something that shouldn't exactly be a big surprise. In fact we've at least heard about this in the news that people with some money they mention loop professionals but for sure we've heard about suburbanites coming in looking for some dope. Apparently they're willing to take a risk in going to some unsafe neighborhoods in order to get a quick high. Too bad that a few have been killed or at least died in the process.

Remember that within the past year or two some people died after getting some heroin and it was laced with a dangerous chemical. They went over to the west side for the buy and some of them were suburbanites as easily as there were neighborhood people. Of course let's be honest here there is a common conception which I'm sure is true that most of the "drug markets" are in these unsafe neighborhoods in the city. You're not likely to get drugs out there in the burbs.

Let's continue with the article...

But Chicago's gangs are no longer the big, centralized regimes of legend, Scott said. The problem now is thousands of small drug crews, loosely bound by the same name, like franchises; most members barely make minimum wage. Treating them like terrorists is likely to backfire.

"Gang members aren't Martians," he said. "They're the sons, daughters, brothers and fathers of people in the neighborhood. Police need to appreciate that gang members aren't just villains to the neighborhood."

People who live in violent areas want police attention, he said, but they don't want a police state, which is what police risk creating.

"They'll probably make a lot of arrests," he said. "Most of the arrests won't stick. Along the way, they've created animosity, which is what the gang thrives on."

In Europe, he said, police understand better that when gangs feel under siege, solidarity increases.

So what's the answer? There's not a single one, he said. But a good start would be to get the guns. Stop the flow from dealers outside the city. Don't just arrest the guy who fires it once it's here.
I most certainly hope it's not difficult for the police to switch gears on strategy as to how to best combat the violence that occurs in Chicago neighborhoods. I want everyone to appreciate that the only answer is definitely not more gun control. And hopefully Dr. Scott's answer won't be construed as going after gun shops because the fact is we have to find a way to go after those people who are willing to sell guns to criminals. Chances are these aren't gun shop owners but we are talking about people on the streets who will sell a gun to the highest bidder.

There are other solutions to be had here too. However what I would be interested in knowing how do we allow the police to do their jobs without creating discontent in the neighborhoods their patrolling?

1 comment:

Dan L said...

Not sure that it matters.....

In all honesty, I've been ranting about this Scott putz for the vast majority of my morning, largely due to this madness here.

Granted, I get it. Gangs are a symptom of a problem - a criminal enterprise which is both dependent upon supply of goods and demand for the goods. Kill the supply, you kill the problem.

Fine. Fine and dandy. George Bush Sr. tried it in Columbia and even though it involved funding a corrupt psuedo military apparatus and ended up with a group of guerrillas forming death squads, it was a hellova lot more on target and effective than the idea that if we just stomp out those pesky "white middle class people who work in the financial district".

And while we're at it, sure, let's take the pressure of the gangs and let them operate with relative impunity. that way, we won't have to worry about destabilizing their business. If we force them to find new turf it will cause more violence. Right.

Oh wait. What? The business (by the nature of it being a business has turf wars and violence with or without LEF involvement. Because, if you want to grow your business you need more customers and less competition. Acquiring more "turf" seems like a hella good way to accomplish at least the former if not the latter. In fact, that particular business model has been in effect with or without complete the police treating "gangs as terrorists".

Listen to that interview. It's not the bangers fault that he killed somebody. It's the white businessmen who allegedly supply the drugs (not the national crime syndicates), it's the "rural gun owners in downstate Illinois" (read, white people) who are supplying the guns, and it's the racist (we'll just assume white police) who dare track gang association based on - well - associating with gang members.

Sorry. I don't buy into it. Repackage some Bush I era bullshit about "treating the root of the problem" and some intellectual-for-the-sake-of-being-intellectual horse shit about violent backlashes from groups that really couldn't get any more violent. It's crap.

If you want my real opinion, you can mail me privately.


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