The Chicago Crime Commission released an updated book about Chicago gangs this week, which reveals that the Windy City has more gang members than any other U.S. city.
The book gives an in-depth account of how gangs in Chicago have changed over the last five years. One disturbing thing researchers found was that gangs have been recruiting children at a very young age to join their ranks.
"Some of these leaders are 15 to 17 years old, so it's not that unusual for somebody at that age to be able to influence somebody in second or third grade," former Chicago Police superintendent Jody Weis told WGN News. Weis is now the president of the commission.
Vulnerable kids looking for structure and discipline in their lives will often reach out to the gang leaders, which is why Weis said it is important for parents to be more engaged with their kids, Fox Chicago reports.
According to the book, Chicago now has more than 70 gangs made up of more than 150,000 members. Social media has also become a popular way for gang members to communicate with one another, which could be a helpful tool for police, but also has incited violence.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Weis estimated two-thirds of school-related violence is spawned on social-media sites.
“You and I get in an argument on Facebook and the next thing you know I’m shooting your sister or you’re shooting my brother,” he said.
Web chatter is a valuable tool for law enforcement officials to monitor for information on gangs, Weis noted.
“A kid may say he’s never carried a gun and on his Facebook page there’s a picture of him holding an AK-47 or a Glock,” he said.
The 320-page book details some web conversations among gang members, where they discuss drug deals, murders and other gang activity.
“Social media is now used as part of good police work,” 7th District Commander Leo Schmitz told the Sun-Times.