Chicago gang life: a former gang member’s own take

The World

We’re following up on a story we did yesterday, from the perspective of Chicago funeral home owner Spencer Leak Sr., about the challenges Chicago is facing in combatting gun and gang violence. On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a Chicago ban on handgun ownership, a move that divided city residents. Some Chicagoans were thrilled, and say the ability to own a handgun makes them feel safer. Others say even more people will lose their lives. Why is gun violence such a problem in Chicago? The Chicago Police Department says that gang activity was involved in 74 percent of murders in the first five months of 2010. 80 people were shot and thirteen killed over the past two weekends in the city.

We examine the allure of gang membership for Chicago youth with Minister Tim White. White is a youth pastor at the Carroll Care Center in Chicago, a group that runs programs aimed at keeping kids off the streets. He’s also a “violence interrupter” for Project CeaseFire, a public health organization aimed at reducing violence. But White wasn’t always on the right side of the law. For 25 years, he was a member of the Vice Lords, a large Chicago gang. White admits that his time in a gang wasn’t well spent, saying he “went to prison three or four times. Went to jail a whole lot more.” But he says gangs have lost their hierarchy. “No one wants to be a leader anymore, because the leader gets indicted.” Now, White says, Chicago gangs are “like a monster with a thousand heads.”

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