The Chicago Police recently announced that they are following up on a promise they made in August to gang members at the Garfield Park Conservatory: If a gang member kills, the police will go after the entire gang.
“We are holding the entire group accountable,” said Police Superintendent Jody Weis in a press conference last week with other local law enforcement.
The initiative, spearheaded by criminologist David Kennedy, is taking place in the West Sidefs police District 11, which includes Garfield Park and Humboldt Park. Weis said the program will expand to other areas of the city as police measure its effectiveness.
Since January of this year, there have been 44 homicides and 123 other shootings in District 11. Weis said he is cautiously optimistic that this new strategy will reduce violence in the area by nearly 50 percent.
Three weeks after Weisf gang meeting, on Aug. 31, 18-year-old Anthony Carter was shot and killed, allegedly by 23-year-old Sherod Pierce, a reputed member of the West Side street gang, the Black Souls. Pierce has not yet been tried.
“This was the homicide that brought the spotlight on the Black Souls,” Weis said.
Since then, police said they have arrested more than 60 people who are associated with the gang. About half, Weis said, are still incarcerated. Most of the arrests were drug related, and six were the result of outstanding warrants.
“We simply took a close look at the current activity of all the members and acted upon what we found,” Weis said.
The superintendent would not disclose precisely how the police conduct broad investigations of criminal enterprises, but some legal experts question the legality of targeting an entire group when only one of its members has been accused of murder.
“Where the police run a risk is by simply arresting people for being in a gang,” said Ron Menaker, a criminal defense attorney.
Menaker said if one of the cases came across his desk, hefd question whether or not the arrest was legal in the first place, especially if the gang member had been targeted as part of a group.
“As a lawyer, if I got one of the cases with one of these kids, Ifd look long and hard at the merits of it,” he said. “Ifm not saying itfs wrong here; I just think therefs something fishy about it.”
None of the gang members were arrested for their affiliation with the Black Souls, but for other illegal activity, like drug and weapon possession. Weis said possible federal racketeering charges could be next. Edwin Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU of Illinois, maintained that his organization doesnft yet have an opinion on the strategy.
“I donft know what to say about it,” he said.
The strategy was developed by Kennedy and, according to data from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has produced results in jurisdictions throughout the United States since its inception in the mid f90s. Cities such as Cincinnati and Boston, for instance, have experienced a 40 to 60 percent reduction in gun violence.