RIVER NORTH — Chicago's top federal prosecutor says a crumbling gang structure is behind local violent crime, a situation that has led to "kids pulling the trigger over nothing."
Appearing before the City Club of Chicago on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon said over the last few decades prosecutors have successfully cracked down on senior leadership in Chicago's major gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, the Latin Kings, the Black P Stones and the Black Disciples.
But in the wake of those prosecutions "the gang problem has grown more complex rather than less," Fardon said in prepared remarks for the luncheon at a River North restaurant.
"With many gangs, we no longer have the old-school, clearly delineated gang leadership, with corporate hierarchical structure, where we can readily identify the CEO and top brass of the gang" and prosecute them, he said, citing former gang leaders Larry Hoover, Jeff Fort and Augustin Zambrano.
Today's gangs have "little central leadership" and violence is often between factions of the same gang, Fardon said.
Rather than using violence as a way to protect illegal activities such as drug sales "more and more these shootings and killings are for base, indiscriminate and petty reasons: revenge, disrespect, perceived disrespect sometimes through social media," he said, describing it as "kids pulling the trigger over nothing."
Fardon described a new Violence Crimes section in his office designed to work with other law enforcement. He also touted efforts to reach out to former convicts now living in the city's neighborhoods to try to prevent further crimes, an approach that includes both warnings and social services.
Another program, called the Youth Outreach Forum, targets juvenile probation or parolees who have committed gun or violent offenses and tries to provide them with mentoring and other services to try to prevent them from doing more crimes. That youth effort initially focused on the 7th and 11th Chicago police district covering Englewood, Garfield Park and parts of Humboldt Park.
He told the business audience that these neighborhoods are "not war zones" but part of "our city" and the people who live there "like you and me, deserve to be safe."
Fardon, 47, began serving as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in October of 2013.