For Chicago officials, however, it has been striking. The number of shootouts involving police this year is also nearing the 2010 total. As of July 21, the police were involved in 40 shootings. There were 46 shootouts recorded in 2010.
There is “a wanton disregard for the law,” says Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. “People are willing to point and fire guns at police officers on a regular basis here in this city.”
But Chicago gang expert John Hagedorn suggests that the city's campaign against street gangs on the city’s West Side could be part of the problem.
Last August, in an unprecedented meeting, former Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis told area gang leaders that if one gang members shot another, authorities would trigger the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law aimed at organized crime. Mr. Weis also promised a crackdown, resulting in increased parole visits and more traffic stops in their neighborhoods.
Then this June, current Superintendent McCarthy said his department would “obliterate” the Maniac Latin Disciples, the gang he held responsible for a shooting in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood that left two young girls wounded. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
But the confrontational approach is misguided because it only increases tension, often resulting in more shootouts with police, says Mr. Hagedorn, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Many of the gangs are so deeply entrenched in Chicago – the Maniac Street Disciples date back to 1966, for instance – that attacking them will be ineffective, he adds.