Wednesday, June 13, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: The cover of the 2012 Gang Book, published by the Chicago Crime Commission. | Good Reads
On June 12, the Chicago Crime Commission released the 2018 Gang Book, the first one that the anti-crime body has published since 2012. The book, which is roughly 400 pages, lists 59 active gangs and more than 2,400 gang factions — many of which are expanding into the suburbs, the commission explains.
The commission reached out to suburban police departments, including Maywood, to lend insight into the proliferation of gang activity beyond Chicago’s borders.
Maywood Police Sgt. Dennis Diaz said that the space dedicated to Maywood runs around two paragraphs in the book, which isn’t yet available to the public. An official with the commission said that the book will be available to purchase for $50 on Amazon starting next week.
“We had a small page,” Diaz said in a phone interview on June 13. “They break it down by city and suburbs. We assisted [the commission] in accumulating information on gangs in the suburbs and I put them in touch with other suburban agencies, such as the Berwyn Police Department.”
Diaz is a leading expert on suburban gangs. In 2015, he and a Cicero police commander started the West Suburban Gang Intelligence Group, which holds quarterly meetings with gang investigators, patrol officers and other law enforcement professionals to exchange information on gang trends, gang intelligence and overall gang activity.
Diaz said that the Maywood Police Department keeps a gang database of documented gang members. Although he couldn’t immediately provide a precise number of individuals in the database, he said that there were roughly 13 gang factions in Maywood the last time he counted.
“If you look at any faction of the gangs now in Chicago, they’re now in the suburbs,” Diaz said. “So, we suffer from the same crime trends.”
According to a WGN report, the Gang Book lists the Latin Kings, Gangster Disciples, Surenos 13, Maniac Latin Disciples and Vice Lords as among the Chicago gangs with the largest suburban presence.
Diaz said that gang activity is evolving from petty crime and drugs to traditional white collar crime, such as credit card fraud.
“Gangs are adjusting their methods to law enforcement and we have to adjust our methods to them,” he said.
And just as crime has evolved for gangs, so too has the way they express their hostility for their rivals. Digital taunting has, to an extent, replaced tagging buildings in rival gang territory with gang signs.
“It’s becoming more and more common for gang members to go into another gang’s neighborhood or the area they hang out and Snapchat photographs of them hanging out in their rivals’ hoods,” Diaz said. “That’s how these rivals escalate in real time.”
Diaz said that, although evidence gleaned from Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be hard to use in court, law enforcement officials nonetheless monitor those platforms for during intelligence gathering.
“Our tactical unit and detectives usually go on social media to gather information and sometimes we utilize informants who will let us look on their pages,” Diaz said. “Often, though, the kids have profiles that are right out in the open and everything is there for us to see. Social media is definitely a game-changer.” VFP
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