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Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
May 2007

Drug-Related Crime

Violent crime associated with retail drug distribution by street gangs is one of the primary public safety concerns facing law enforcement officials in the Chicago HIDTA region. In 2006 nearly 50 percent of the homicides and a large percentage of other violent crimes and property crimes committed in Chicago were attributed to street gangs that are involved in drug trafficking. Further, officers assigned to the Chicago HIDTA Cook County Jail Drug/Gang/Violent Crimes Initiative report that approximately 3,500 of the 13,000 inmates currently housed in the Cook County Jail have some gang affiliation. Most are being housed for drug-related crimes, and some have committed violent crimes, including assaults, while incarcerated.

Drug-related violence typically results from competition for distribution locations among street-level dealers (mostly street gangs) or occurs when dealers and buyers experience a "rip-off" of drugs or money. When violence does occur among street-level dealers, retaliation often follows, leading to increased hostilities. For example, police in Chicago attribute 19 homicides in 2006 to an ongoing dispute among members of the Traveling Vice Lords and New Breeds street gangs. Additionally, street gangs and other criminals from areas outside the HIDTA region provide a steady flow of firearms to Chicago street gangs, which use them for protection and intimidation; this situation elevates the overall threat to public safety posed by these gangs. During the 10-year period from 1996 to 2005, law enforcement agencies in Chicago seized, on average, over 10,000 firearms each year. For example, in February 2007 the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois indicted 18 defendants involved in straw purchases--any purchase in which a buyer who is not eligible to own the purchased item according to the law purchases the item through a proxy buyer--in Mississippi of firearms that were intended for distribution to Chicago street gangs.

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