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Gangs vs. Chicago police: an open feud over blame for street violence

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So far this summer, three police officers have been killed, and two were wounded early Wednesday while executing a search warrant for weapons. Chicago’s homicide rate is among the highest in the nation.

Buttressing the gang representatives' views, some who study gangs say that Chicago's have become much more decentralized than they used to be – and that the former tightly controlled hierarchies have devolved into loosely affiliated splinter groups battling over local turf.

The organizational breakdown means younger gang members feel they "don't have to answer to nobody," says Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire Illinois, which works to prevent neighborhood violence. “They form cliques on the blocks and feel they’re untouchable, basically because no one can govern them.” Random killings that result from spraying bullets into a crowd are not typical of gang operations, he says.

“No gang leader would sanction the killing of a kid. They would not do that. Those are people operating on their own,” Mr. Hardiman says.

For their part, gang leaders on Thursday said they were coerced into meeting with law enforcement officials last month, and they complained that authorities' efforts to blame them for the rising violence – and threats to dog their members – verge on violating their constitutional rights.

Police Superintendent Weis “is not interested in solving [violence] from a community perspective,” Mark Carter, a former gang member who helped organize the conference, told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. He criticizes the police department and Mayor Daley for using techniques that gang members feel are harsh and unjust.

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