Drug cartels bring violence to Chicago streets
BY ALEJANDRO ESCALONA email@example.com January 2, 2013 4:14PM
Aliyah Shell, 6, was on her porch in March in the 3100 block of South Springfield in Chicago when she was shot to death, allegedly by a gang-banger shooting at a rival gang member. | Family photo
Updated: February 4, 2013 2:44PM
In the critically acclaimed television series “Breaking Bad,” there is a terrifying scene in which a kid shoots to death an unsuspected drug dealer in broad daylight. The fictional murder happens in the rough streets of Albuquerque, N.M., but it could have taken place in real life in Chicago.
I recently started to watch back episodes of “Breaking Bad,” which tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer and decides to produce and sell methamphetamines along with one of his former students. The teacher intends to pay for his treatment with the proceeds of his illegal activities.
The gripping show sheds light on how drug trafficking, gangs and drugs wreak havoc in cities across the United States. In Chicago, the number of homicides reached 506 in the final days of 2012. This is the first time since 2008 that the number of killings topped 500 and the second time since 2003.
Chicago’s murder rate was 19 percent higher in 2012 compared with 2011. And the city began the new year with three homicides.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called the chilling milestone a “tragic number that is reflective of the gang violence and proliferation of illegal guns that have plagued some of our neighborhoods.”
The horrific scene in “Breaking Bad” reminded me of the killing of 6-year-old Aliyah Shell last March as she sat in her front porch in Little Village. Drive-by shootings are too common occurrences in some city neighborhoods.
Guns, drugs and gangs are involved in most homicides in Chicago. Add the long arm of the Mexican drug cartels, which supply most drugs in the Midwest, and we have a deadly mix.
Luis Hernandez, 16, and Juan Barraza, 18, purported Latin Kings members, were charged with murdering little Aliyah. Hernandez allegedly shouted gang slogans and fired several shots toward the front porch while Barraza drove the getaway vehicle.
Police suspected there was a meeting of the Two-Six gang in Aliyah’s house the day of the shooting. The shooters might have targeted one of Aliyah’s relatives.
Aliyah’s mother, Diana Aguilar, has denied any gang affiliation in her family.
But an internal Chicago Police Officer Safety Alert, issued March 17, the day Aliyah was murdered, warned officers that her killing might have triggered more violence between the Latin Kings and the Two-Six.
The alert also warned officers that a relative of Aliyah’s was an “active and documented” and “high ranking” member of the Two-Six. That relative “was at the scene of the murder [of Aliyah] and was possibly the intended target,” the alert said.
Prosecutors might be able to determine if there was gang activity in or around the house at the time of the shooting. Hernandez and Barraza were charged as adults with first-degree murder.
Chicago has the largest gang population in the country, with about 100,000 members who commit 80 percent of the city’s homicides. They fight among themselves for turf to distribute drugs.
Experts on drug trafficking have long warned of the violence the Mexican drug cartels might bring to our streets. I think the violence is already here. And the gangs, along with the cartels, are responsible.
The police and the feds have their work cut out for 2013.