Gangs are under ‘audit’ in Rogers Park neighborhood
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 16, 2012 12:38AM
James Roussell, commander of the Chicago Police Department's Rogers Park District. — Sun-Times File Photo
Updated: May 17, 2012 8:08AM
In other parts of Chicago, Black P Stones gang members are almost always African-American. Latin Kings are usually Hispanic. But in Rogers Park, you might see a Pakistani Black P Stone or Asian Latin King.
The North Side neighborhood’s ethnic diversity extends to gangs. But gangs in Rogers Park are different in another way, too: Their violence isn’t usually rooted in disputes over money like gangs on the West Side and South Side.
“It’s all about gang-banging in Rogers Park — respect,” said Rogers Park Police Cmdr. James Roussell.
His district completed a “gang audit” in February to get a better picture of gang territory, gang membership and gang dynamics of the area. Similar audits are being done across the city. Rogers Park provides a snapshot of how police districts are tailoring gang information to their unique problems.
The Rogers Park audit identified 17 gang factions and 249 active gang members in the district, Roussell said. Several retaliatory shootings have been prevented recently when cops caught suspected gunmen with weapons, he said.
Roussell said officers in the district are being given bulletins with details about gang conflicts and those involved. Eventually he wants to put the information on squad car computer terminals.
He also said he is relying on citizens to provide anonymous tips about gang violence and demonstrate against shootings.
“We call it ‘positive loitering,’ ” Roussell said. “They bring their dogs and baby carriages and occupy those locations.”
About 30 citizens stood at Pratt and Ashland from 10 p.m. to midnight on April 6 the day after a fatal shooting there.
Craig Gernhardt runs a blog called “The Broken Heart of Rogers Park,” which documents gang violence in the area. He praised those who showed up but wondered “why so little people cared to join in the symbolic march for peace in the community.”
Gang violence has risen in Rogers Park this year.
There were five murders through Friday, compared to one over the same period of 2011.
There were also 16 shootings in Rogers Park through Friday, compared to five for the same period of 2011.
Violence is on the rise citywide, too, fueled partly by warm weather that has drawn gang members outdoors. Murder was up 60 percent for the first three months of 2012.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said shootings have declined citywide over the past three weeks. The department is seeing some success in stopping retaliatory shootings and taking guns off the street, he said.
“We’re getting better at it,” McCarthy said. “We’re not winning any battles yet.”
The biggest problem: innocent victims caught in retaliatory shootings, like a 1-year-old girl shot Thursday as she slept next to her mother on the South Side. Police suspect the gunmen were after her gang-member uncle, McCarthy said.
To stop such shootings, officers need to have an “intimate knowledge” of the conflicts and players — as Roussell is trying to do in Rogers Park, McCarthy said.
Sometimes the fighting is between different gangs, such as the Black P Stones and the Gangster Disciples.
But many times, the feuds are among factions of the same gang. Five factions of the Gangster Disciples, for instance, are battling in Rogers Park, Roussell said.
They are no longer controlled by a corporate hierarchy that made sure factions worked together to make money for the top leaders.
One of the bloodiest conflicts is between a GD faction on Howard Street and a GD one on Morse Avenue. It stemmed from a fatal stabbing in 2008, Roussell said. The suspect was extradited from New York to Chicago but was found not guilty of murder last year, he said.
“Then all of this violence started again,” Roussell said.
The most recent casualty of the feud was James Brown, 22, fatally shot April 5 in the 6800 block of North Ashland. He was on parole for shooting and wounding a 9-year-old boy a block away in 2009, Roussell said.
Roussell led a Marine Reserve force that fought insurgents in Iraq and returned to Chicago in 2008. He said up-to-date intelligence is the key to fighting a battle.
“We have clearer information about these conflicts than we did a few months ago,” Roussell said. “The world is changing. The gangs are changing. We are changing with it.”