CRIMINALIZING GANGS

ORGANIZED YOUTH CRIME IN CHCAGO

This 1969 Report was issued by Mayor Richard J. Daley and States Attorney Edward Hanrahan. This report marks a critical turning point in public policy toward gangs. No longer would gangs be considered "misguided youth." Instead, the language and policies toward organized crime fill the report. The vigorous prosecution of gang members as a result of this policy filled the prisons and helped strengthen and stabilize the gangs, a tragic example of unintended consequences. Read Rev. John Fry, minister at First Presbyterian Church and an advisor to the Blackstone Rangers, critique of the report. Despite Daley's war, Chicago's gangs continued to attempt to control violence.

Permission to reprint this report was given by the Chicago Historical Society. Only the first eight pages of the report, focused on the change in policy, are reproduced here.

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INTRODUCTION

Thousands of police reports are filed each year in Chicago. One of them reads:

At approximately 2000 hours, 23 April 1968, the reporting police officers were assigned to "a boy shot"….On arrival we learned the victim to be Willis Clayton III, male, negro, age 16. The victim had sustained a bullet wound, the entrance of which was in the right rear of head and was imbedded in front of left (brain) lobe. The victim succumbed from the bullet wound and was pronounced dead sat 2035 hours, 23 April 1968.

Willis Clayton III was an average youngster. He was an honor student at Dunbar High School, and while a freshman, he was named to the varsity football squad. He held a medal for track. His father said he worked hard to earn a scholarship for college. Willis was finishing his freshman year at Dunbar when a teenage gang killed him. Gang members met him on the street and shot him in the head at point-blank range.

Although there is no one description of a gang, many accept that offered by Frederick Thrasher in his classic study, "the Gang." He characterized the gang as a "group originally formed spontaneously and then integrated through conflict." Through a process of meeting, planning, and conflict, there developed "solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a territory."1

Gangs in our country have claimed and defended their "territory" since 1905.2 Gang rivalry, resulting in street fighting, has been the historical function of youth gangs, but beginning in the late 1940s and continuing in the fifties and sixties, gang activity included vicious and senseless murder. 3

Nearly four years ago, however, new and alarming dimensions were added to the terror and violence by several gangs in Chicago. For some, organization took on a purpose beyond the waging of war with rival street gangs. Organized terror and violence were utilzed for recruitment and discipline of gang members, and ultimately for the extortion of individuals and merchants in the gang's territory. Deadly force was increasingly used to achieve these ends.

From 1965 to 1969 over 200 persons have been slain in gang-related crimes. In 1967, the worst year of gang violence, over 150 people were murdered by Chicago gangs. 4 In both 1967 and 1968 nearly 30% of those charged with murder were under the age of 21.5

Parks, playgrounds and residential streets have been the scene of gang executions. Children have been shot down for no reason; some have been caught up in the crossfire of gang combat. Gang members have turned their guns on victims who thought they were safe in their homes. Others have committed robbery and rape because they enjoy gang protection. Businessmen have been the prey of organized protection rackets.

Gang claims that they are traditional boys' clubs or community organizations ignore the violence and destruction of social values in the neighborhoods they terrorize. Deadly recruitment drives and murderous conflicts over gang territory cannot be justified by self-serving statements of community support.

John Thomas Wilson, 14, and Clifford Reynolds, 17, were members of a gang. They were caught in a conflict over territory and on April 15, 1969, members of a rival gang marched them at gun point from Wilson's porch at 2215 S. Springfield Avenue to a railroad embankment and shotgunned them to death. Three gang members were indicted for the murder.6

Assistant States Attorney Robert Karton described the recruitment techniques of a gang called, "the Dell Vikings" before the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations:

On July 25, 1966, in the afternoon these two boys who were members of the Dell Vikings, were at a playground located at 41st and Indiana Avenue in Chicago.

At that playground there were five boys playing basketball. These two fellows with a third fellow who acted as lookout according to the testimony…talked to these five boys and said, "All right, we are going to a meeting of the Dell Vikings. Who wants to join?" Three of the boys said they wanted to join. So cochran and Cannon took those three boys and put them on one side of the basket. The other two said they did not want to join. So Cochran and Cannon put them on the other side of the basket.

The Chariman: Who are Cochran and Cannon?

Mr. Karston: Members of the Dell Vikings.


They then asked the two boys that were on the left side of gthe basket, "Are you sure you do not want to join?"

The boys were Donald Hopkins Jr. 15, and Anthony Smith, who was 14.

"Are you sure you don't want to join?"

"We are sure we don't want to join."

At that point Cochran told Cannon, "Burn them." Cannon… took out a gun from his pocket and he shot them both and killed them. They were found guilty by a jury in Cook County in the fall of 1967.7

On April 19, 1969, in a single community, four boys were shot in separate gang battles in less than one hour.8 In another community a womanwas asked if she heard any of six shots fired into her neighbor's house in a gang killing. "I didn't pay any attention" she said, "I'm used to shootings around here most every night.9

The gangs have also terrorized schools. On a single day at the beginning of the last school year, gang members carried their street battle to the halls of three high schools. 10 Police responded to calls of shootings and possession of guns in the schools. At one high school the principal resorted to negotiations with top gang leaders hoping they would stop recruitment of students on their way to school. 11 Many families have removed their children from school because of gang threats and beatings. The number cannot be calculated with certainty, but on the basis of complaints received by police and school officials, it would appear to be in the hundreds.12 In some instances families have been broken up because children have been sent to live with relatives far from gang influence.

Community leadership is also in jeopardy. On the West Side the windows of Mrs. Harold Tiche's home were shattered by gunfire. A community leader, she had refused to give one gang exclusive rights to the use of a neighborhood center. As a consequence of the attack on her home, Mrs. Tiche resigned from positions she held in community work. "Its not worth risking the lives of my children," she said. 13

Gang terror was used for extortion. A Woodlawn merchant said in the summer of 1968.

I'm scared to death and so are the other businessmen and residents. If they demand money and you don't come across, they come after you. It's as simple as that…. In my opinion every merchant on the street is paying off but they're too scared to complain, so they either move out or go along….14

Every major city in the nation has committed its resources to programs that deal with youth gangs. In Chicago both public and private organizations have invested countless man-hours in programs that offer alternatives to idleness and social waste among the youth of our city, including gang members. These efforts will continue and will be increased as resources are available.

In general, the city's practice regarding youth gangs has been to bring trained adults into constructive relationships with gang members to serve as a guiding force and to provide connections with yoth employment and other opportunities. In addition, city government has supported the efforts of private agencies and community organizations that have worked with gangs.

In the field of law enforcement, municipal police are basically organized to meet ordinary criminal activity. They are not typically structured to deal with large-scale criminal organization among youth. The policy of the city's law enforcement agencies has been to give young people special protection when they get in trouble with the law. When picked up by police youngsters are referred to specially-trained officers, brought to a special court, turned over, when confinement is necessary, to youth institutions and supervised by a special staff of probation and parole officers when they are released. Their offences are not made a matter of permanent record, and their names are not made public.

Yet action must be taken when young men deliberately set out to create a structure which threatens the security of others, even in their own homes; which organizes for the avowed purpose of controlling a community's youth pupulation; which employs its structure to obtain revenue illegally; and which attempts to secure immunity for its crimes through intimidation and violence.

The response of the city to the development of these youth gang structures has been the following:

    1. Develop a special group of police officers, knowledgeable in the problems of youth and youth crime, for the purpose of investigating and gathering information for the prosecution of crimes perpetrated by organized youth gangs.
    2. Vigorous prosecution of cases arising out of youth crime.
    3. Maximum protection for witnesses to, and victims of, this type of organized crime.
 

This enforcement program is not a substitute for measures which offer help and guidance to young people seeking constructive opportunities. Nor will it bring any reduction in positive programs for youth. The city is in agreement with the position that youth crime is in large part a product of evils in our society, such as poverty, discrimination and other unrighted wrongs. Government and the general public have shown their appreciation of these conditions by a willingness to support programs and the policies which attempt to deal with them. But these programs cannot become effective while crime threatens a neighborhood.

It is also true that we are all involved. Those who deny others, on racial grounds, jobs or the right of residence contribute to the record of youth crime. The city is not seeking the support of those who want safe streets and are blind to justice, but city government must provide all its residents the basic security which permits them to live and work in their communities without fear.