As Gang Culture Changes, Chicago Kingpins Decline


The powerful Chicago gang kingpin is looking like an endangered species, the Chicago Tribune reports. Major street gangs that once carved up the city into virtual fiefdoms for drug trafficking are producing fewer “super” leaders who dominate their organizations with charisma, ruthlessness, and guile in years past, experts say. Hierarchies traditionally topped by a powerful few have decentralized. The factors behind this dramatic change range from aggressive federal prosecutions of leadership ranks to a crackdown on once-powerful gang leaders inside prisons, preventing them from holding sway on the outside.

The culture is also changing among younger gang members, who increasingly put money before loyalty and are wary of taking on leadership roles for fear of drawing heat. Once caught, younger gang members are more likely to turn on their cohorts and become informants, making it easier for authorities to infiltrate gangs. “All they know is money,” said Tio Hardiman, director of mediation services for the violence-prevention program CeaseFire. “There’s no real loyalty in the gangs anymore. The code of the street, it doesn’t count like it used to.” Still, fighting gangs remains a principal challenge for Jody Weis, Chicago’s next police superintendent. The changes in gang structure have not weakened the gangs’ ability to dispense drugs or violence, and while there are fewer all-out gang wars directed by chieftains, lower-level gang members still battle block by block over drug turf.


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