CHICAGO
02/14/2011 09:47 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jody Weis: Meeting With Gang Leaders Led To 40 Percent Homicide Drop

Over the summer, Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis held a secret meeting with the leaders of the West Side's most vicious gangs, telling them that the next group responsible for a murder would feel the department's wrath.

Some said the department was "negotiating with urban terrorists," but police said Sunday that the sit-down strategy actually worked.

During a Sunday press conference, Weis said murders in high-crime areas of Chicago's West Side dropped 40 percent following the meeting and subsequent crackdown on the Black Souls street gang, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Over the summer, sources explained the August 17 gang meeting:

"When one of those gangs is involved in a killing. . . authorities plan to make their leaders' lives miserable, doing everything from towing their cars for parking violations, to ramping up parole visits, to pulling them over repeatedly for traffic stops."

Following the Aug. 31 murder of 18-year-old Anthony Carter, the Black Souls got to see for themselves how serious the department was about the crackdown. From the Tribune:

The Black Souls felt the brunt of the first crackdown following the Aug. 31 slaying of Anthony Carter, 18, in the 4000 block of West Jackson Boulevard and the arrest of a Black Souls leader in the killing. In about 60 days, police arrested 60 gang members and associates of the gang, identified through intelligence gathered by street officers and analysis of arrest data that was developed using so-called social network analysis.

The department worked with Harvard Prof. Andrew Papachristos to identify the city's most influential gang leaders, the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

By drawing maps of the social networks that link offenders, they were able to pinpoint nine key members of the Black Souls whose importance was underestimated by traditional police work and gang organization charts, Acting Deputy Supt. Brian Murphy said.

Papachristos said the analysis -- which has been used to reduce murders in Boston, Cincinnati and Minneapolis -- was based on the theory that crime is "a lot like sex -- who you mess around with is going to get you in trouble," but said it relies on good information from beat officers.

The crackdown also led to the arrest of more than 100 members of the violent Travelling Vice Lords gang.

"The numbers speak for themselves," Weis said Sunday. "...It's a significant reduction in violence in the 11th District."

The next sit-down with gang leaders will take place in about two weeks. The aldermen who ripped Weis' gang meeting would not return calls for comment on Sunday, according to the Sun-Times.

Last week, another news report showed a 42 percent drop in complaints against police officers under Weis' leadership. The city also had the fewest number of murders in 2010 since 1965.

Weis' success, however, has been lost on the city's candidates for mayor. All six have vowed to fire him if elected.