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by Peter Moskos

February 20, 2012

Police versus Disciples in Chicago

There's some good reporting by Frank Main of the Chicago Sun-Times. He goes beyond Police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s bombast (“We’re going to obliterate that gang,” he told police brass in a meeting in June. “Every one of their locations has to get blown up until they cease to exist.”) to talk to actual gang members. I'm generally tempted to dismiss "get tough" language as ineffective bombastic bravado, but I have faith in Superintendent McCarthy. And so far what police in Chicago are actually doing seems to be working.
"Maniac Latin Disciples members are now under gang orders to keep violence to a minimum because of the police crackdown, the ranking member said."
Well now, isn't that the idea? The gang member continues, talking about their cars:
“Most of the shorties don’t have licenses or insurance,” the ranking member said. “They’re easy to pick off.”

He said a lot of them aren’t reclaiming their seized cars because they don’t have the money. Some of the seized cars contained hidden guns the police didn’t find, he added.

Asked if he thinks the police will let up, the gang member acknowledged, “Stopping the violence is the only way. They know we’ll always be selling drugs. The cops will tell you, ‘I won’t trip out about you having weed in your pocket to feed your kids.’ But when you start shooting across schoolyards and shooting little innocent kids and s--- like that, they’re not going to tolerate that. I get mad. I’ve told the mother-f------ shorties in our mob to stop doing that f------ b-------. How do you think the parents feel? That’s our neighborhood.”
Surprisingly, the gang member said he didn’t know police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s name — even though the superintendent is the source of the Maniac Latin Disciples’ recent troubles.

But he does know McCarthy’s face from the TV news as the “top dog who gives the orders to the foot soldiers.”

“All I know is that people are hiding under rocks because of him,” the gang member said.
Between Jan. 9 and Feb. 5, for example, there weren’t any shootings in the district, compared to seven for the same period of 2011, police said.
Beat 1423 saw calls for police service drop from 127 for the last six months of 2010 to 56 for the last six months of 2011.
Let's keep an eye on this and see whether it lasts. That's what separates a dumb crackdown from smart policing. You can always flood an area with cops, and that will reduce crime. But you can't afford to keep an area flooding with cops. And what happens after police leave is the real test. Violence stays down when police patrol and police intel and the DA and probation and patrol all get on the same page.

I mention this because there's a tendency among academics to fail to notice the key moment when police do something right. If violence does stay down, in a few year's time the SPSS set will say, "Correlation doesn't equal causation. We can't say police were the cause because there was no proper control-group study (or any study at all)." And then later, looking back, you'll hear, "well, the neighborhood got better" and "there were a multitude of factors" and "community efficacy really coalesced." Sociologists will look at the community and might credit the positive transformation of gang culture; economists will notice a greater involvement of gang members in the legal workforce; teacher will credit themselves; preachers will credit God. Well, yes, but sometimes it all starts with the good, smart, aggressive policing.

In effect, academics assert that if we can't prove (to a level of 95-percent statistical certainty) that police are the cause of a crime drop, then it would be misguided (at best) to give police (or, God forbid, an individual police chief) credit. Think about it... we use our own ineptitude and short-sightedness to justify our dismissal of effective policing. That's a nice little trick!

The time to do research isn't after the fact, from your office, but right now, on the streets around Humboldt Park, Chicago.

Maybe what's going on in Chicago is just a few months of police overtime and a few extra arrests. Maybe next year everything will be back to normal and cops will be sitting in their cars waiting for the next shooting. But maybe not. It would be nice to know.


Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, the NYPD/Kelly insist on frivolous stop and frisks in the easiest to ignore nabes, low level mary j arrests, and an increase in micro-management to look good and have solid sound bytes, yet still haven't released information re: Fixing Stats/Hard Goals. Dan Rodricks covered some of this on the latest Mid-Day (2/21) re: LE, but I felt he ignored wholesale points you made in your book.


Anonymous said...

I'm watching you on the CBC right now!

Tell us how it went, including behind the scenes gossip.

-From Canada

PCM said...

See my post on Up With Chris Hayes, specifically as to how TV shows usually are.

Me in a room in New York, faraway. Earbud. Can't really follow the conversation because of satellite audio delay. Less than 10 minutes.