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Gang Infighting Causing Spike in Shootings in Uptown and Beyond, Police Say

By Mina Bloom | May 7, 2015 5:47am
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The gang fragmentation is "relatively unprecedented," said Lt. Bob Stasch with the Town Hall district.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — A "relatively unprecedented" bout of infighting among North Side gang members combined with taunting on social media has led to a spike in gun violence in Uptown and beyond, police said this week.

Town Hall District police have noticed that two of the gang factions in the neighborhood — the Gangster Disciples and the Conservative Vice Lords — are fragmenting, meaning members of the same gang are fighting with one another or aligning with members of the rival gang. In other words, their behavior is becoming more unpredictable, according to Lt. Bob Stasch, who addressed a crowd of roughly 15 residents at a CAPS meeting held Tuesday evening at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

"We're seeing something that we haven't seen in gangs before, which is relatively unprecedented," Stasch said. "That is raising the tensions dramatically."

"Everybody's trying to find their best friend. Ironically, their best friends aren't the way it's supposed to be. Gangster Disciples are not supposed to be fighting with each other. They're not supposed to be aligning with [Conservative] Vice Lords. As a matter of fact, years ago they weren't even supposed to be aligning with Black P-Stones," he said.

He added: "That's the impetus behind the violence we're seeing."

Mina Bloom discusses what police and neighbors say about the violence:

Stasch said it's unclear if the fragmentation is strictly the result of social media taunting, which Ald. Joe Moore pointed to earlier this week when discussing Rogers Park shootings, or whether it has to do with expanding territories. Either way, it's leading to increased violence on the "entire North Side," he said.

"In the past, when it was isolated in our area here, we had a better handle on what was going on with the gangs," Stasch said.

"This problem that we're facing in the 19th district is exacerbating as we move our way north into the 20th and 24th [districts.] It now involves three police districts. It's a little harder to get a handle on why they're actually fighting," he added.

In the past, residents could see signs of gang conflict. But now they're "not seeing any signs of conflict and suddenly there's gunfire," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th).

Stasch said the "same things are happening, but they're happening in a wider area."

"[The conflict] might be happening at North Shore and Ashland. The conflict starts up there, is sent out on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and before you know it those Gangster Disciples are driving around Clarendon Park looking for someone to shoot," he said.

The alderman said this makes it difficult for residents to call 911 because "they see nothing brewing."

The most recent non-fatal shooting in Uptown happened Saturday, when a man was shot in the 4400 block of North Hazel Street and walked to the hospital. There have been a total of three homicides this year in the neighborhood, the most recent on April 15.

According to Tribune crime data, there have been eight shooting victims in Uptown as of April 24 compared to 18 all of last year.

Ben Woodard discusses the role social media has played in recent violence:

Some residents at the meeting expressed frustration, saying the area needs more police officers. 

Susan Friedman, who has lived in Uptown for 40 years, called the recent violence "unacceptable," especially since "we're not even into the high season yet."

"Please don't tell us we should walk our dogs in the area. We need to take action," she said. "I don't believe there is a preventive plan in place. If there is one, it's not working. It needs to be reassessed. This is not acceptable in my community."

Cappleman said adding police is up to the Chicago Police Department decision, not him. Stasch agreed, saying the Town Hall District can't bring in more officers just because they want some.

"That would be like an employee telling the CEO of a corporation how to run a corporation," he said.

Cappleman reinforced his point, saying "I was told very clearly that it's not aldermen making requests or the public making requests. 911 calls help, arrests help. You can do all kinds of petitions [to get more officers], but that's not going to work. It's going to frustrate you."

Cappleman did say that he is using ward menu funds to "more than double" the amount of police cameras in Uptown.

"I just had a conversation with our commander and Sgt. Clark. We are setting aside the budget for new cameras," Cappleman said.

Though he's placing the order this month, he said he's still "waiting for the city" to find out when cameras could be installed.

Stasch said the cameras "catch a lot of things," but it takes 18 to 20 hours before the facial recognition software "gets a hit on somebody."

Stasch and the Town Hall officers are working with the gang enforcement unit and continuing to keep an eye on the troubled areas in the neighborhood. He said "there is no single answer" to diminishing the violence happening on the North Side right now.

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