WBEZ | gangs http://www.wbez.org/tags/gangs Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Shoes on a wire: Untangling an urban myth http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 <p><p>The curiosity about shoes hanging on power lines is practically ubiquitous. Our questioner, Matt Latourette, saw them all the time growing up in the &lsquo;70s and &lsquo;80s in Chicago&rsquo;s Belmont Central neighborhood. And even though he doesn&rsquo;t see as many dangling shoes around neighborhoods today, that didn&rsquo;t stop him from tapping into a sort of collective curious-consciousness and asking about one of the biggest urban mysteries that lurks in the minds of city-dwellers and suburbanites alike:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&rsquo;s with all the gym shoes hanging from power lines?</em></p><p>Strangely enough, the city actually keeps track of how many pairs of Chicago shoes get hauled over electric or telephone wires. We learned that in the last seven years, city workers have received at least 6,000 requests to remove shoes hanging from telephone or electrical wires. (Similar requests, by the way, have sought to remove everything from a pair of hanging cowboy boots to a stranded rubber ducky.)</p><p>Clearly, gym-shoes hanging on a wire is something that happens. But getting to the bottom of why &mdash; that proved difficult. Despite Reddit threads, a <a href="http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.asp">Snopes article citing &ldquo;no one definitive answer&rdquo;</a> to shoe-throwing, and <a href="https://vimeo.com/71867019">even a mini-documentary about shoe tossing across the globe</a>, at first all we found were whole lot of theories. But, we were able to turn up enough first-hand accounts and interviews with community leaders, gang members and sociologists to tease out some of the basic theories.</p><p>Among those theories: Shoes are tossed on account of losing a bet or taunting a victim or, from kids just being silly. In a more serious vein, people said the shoes signify where to buy drugs; they memorialize victims of gun violence; or they represent a crew marking their block.</p><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/THEORY%201.png" style="float: left; width: 492px; height: 69px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Let&rsquo;s start with a theory confirmed by an unidentified WBEZ listener who dialed the Curious City hotline and told his own story of shoe-throwing in his youth, which was spent in Cleveland, Ohio.</div><blockquote><div>I think I was 14. It was about 1970, and I was wearing my gym shoes around my neck tied together by the laces. A friend of mine, who was perhaps not the best friend in the world, liked to taunt me to some extent. And he was throwing my shoes up in the air pretending, I think, that he was going to throw them over the wire across the street. But then he succeeded. And there they hung. Eventually, some time later that month, the shoestring broke and I got my shoes back.</div></blockquote><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%202.png" style="float: left;" title="" /></div><div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The wager theory is common across the Internet, too. WBEZ listener Juan Molina dialed us, saying that&rsquo;s how he encountered the phenomenon.</p><blockquote><p>I lost a bet and my buddies throw my shoes up there. So, pretty much what they did was climb it &mdash; &nbsp;a pole &mdash; and threw it up there. Other times we threw it from the street until they got caught. ... We tied the laces together and threw it up.</p></blockquote><p>On his message, Molina gave us another reason: spite.</p><blockquote><p>I did it once because I survived soccer camp. &hellip; I did not want to go to soccer. It was something my parents forced and I ended up throwing it up there. Those were just regular Nike cleats.</p></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%203.png" style="width: 100%; float: left;" title="" />So what about the gang and urban violence angle?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For that I asked my friend Patrick Starr, a guy I&rsquo;ve known for years who is serving a life sentence in a Missouri state prison. He was a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang back in the 1990s in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, he coaches other inmates on cutting ties with their gang. I figured he might be able to help me get to the bottom of whether shoe-tossing was associated with gangs or urban violence. He said that when he was young, he&rsquo;d throw shoes up on the power lines to let folks know his crew, the 57th Street Rogue Dogs, ran that block.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To us in Kansas City it was about your crew and y&rsquo;all marking your neighborhood,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">With that, he told me he&rsquo;d ask around the prison yard and get back to me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The next day I got a call. He&rsquo;d asked fellow inmates and gotten some interesting responses.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;The Chicago guys, and a lot of the St. Louis guys, they said that represented guys who were killed from each neighborhood &mdash; whether it is gang guys or just homeboys from the hood or the block,&rdquo; he said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When Starr asked other guys from Springfield and Columbia, Missouri, he said he got a very different response. Around those parts, he said, he was told shoes marked a &ldquo;kill&rdquo; and that &ldquo;everyone the OG [Original Gangster] kills, there is a pair of shoes up there that marks he&rsquo;s knocked one man out of his shoes.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Starr said there were so many inmates that had something to say on the subject, that word started to travel around.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;It kind of turned into a nice little yard topic to where guys were starting to run up and say, &lsquo;Oh, hey, man, this is what that meant in my city or my town.&rsquo; Or, &lsquo;We don&rsquo;t know nothing about that,&rsquo;&rdquo; Starr told me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/theory%204.png" style="float: left; width: 100%;" title="" />OK, so let&rsquo;s recap. So far we&rsquo;ve figured out that shoes on power lines mean most of what we originally thought: a memorial to a friend who passed, a crew repping their block, a bully, and kids being bored. But we&rsquo;d yet to hear anyone tell us that they sold or bought drugs under a pair of sneaks.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">We talked to Chicago police but they declined to comment.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">So we asked some more people &mdash; kids around the neighborhoods, sociologists, a South Side priest and Cobe Williams, a community outreach worker who has spent years working in troubled neighborhoods in Chicago. When they did have a theory, it was that the shoes were a memorial to someone who died. Not one said they linked it to drugs.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s like an urban legend, especially the drug spot thing,&rdquo; said Robert Aspholm, a social worker, childhood shoe-tosser and a doctoral student at University of Illinois at Chicago working on a dissertation on African American gang dynamics in Chicago. He was highly skeptical of the drug theory because, as he put it, &ldquo;No one is going to put what they&rsquo;re doing out there in that type of way to set themselves up to be arrested.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another sociologist I corresponded with, Randol Contreras, grew up in the South Bronx and had his own fun tossing his shoes up on power lines. He now works at the University of Toronto and is the author of <em>The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream</em>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">He said that when he was growing up, sneakers hung from wires in every single neighborhood he lived in.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I even threw an old, worn pair of my own sneakers up to hang,&rdquo; Contreras wrote in an email. &ldquo;However, as I got older, I saw it happening less often.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;I remember doing it because that&#39;s what the guys did sometimes with an old pair sneakers to have a laugh. So I never knew &lsquo;why&rsquo; it was originally done; it was just a tradition that produced laughs in the moment.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Aspholm feels the same way. For him, throwing his shoes on the power lines was the pastime of a bored kid who spent a lot of time outdoors.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;As kids you want to make your mark or have some type of impact on your environment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So that&rsquo;s just throwing your shoes up on the telephone wires is one way to do that. Like graffiti or tagging something.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:24px;">A disappearing mystery?<a name="graphic"></a></span></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20infographic%208.png" style="height: 498px; width: 620px;" title="The number of reported shoe-tossings has decreased since 2008. Data source: City of Chicago" /></div><div>Along with the myriad stories about exactly what shoes on power lines mean, we uncovered some interesting data. According to Mike Claffey, a City of Chicago spokesman, requests for removing shoes from power lines have dropped by 71 percent between 2008 and 2014. This year, as of June, the city has received only 111 requests to remove shoes from power lines, compared to more than 1,100 in 2008. When we pulled similar data from all the 311 calls requesting to have shoes removed, it showed the same trend, with the concentration of the requests coming from the South and West sides with a pocket in the far northeast of the city, around Rogers Park.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I also spoke with ComEd, who maintains power lines in Chicago alleys. (The city maintains the streets.) A spokeswoman, Liz Keating, told me that while ComEd doesn&rsquo;t keep records of the shoes they take down, anecdotally their technicians notice few on the North Side of the city and far more one the South Side.<a name="map"></a></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/shoe%20tossing%20heatmap.png" style="height: 472px; width: 620px;" title="Visualization based on more than 7,00 records obtained from the city of Chicago, then filtered to 5,918 entries relevant to hanging shoes. Map graphic created via CartoDB. © OpenStreetMapcontributors © CartoDB" /></div></div><div>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Aspholm said he believes the reason theories around shoe-throwing so often veer toward gangs and drugs and territory issues, are because there is overlap.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;A lot of times these types of activities take place in marginalized urban areas,&rdquo; Aspholm said. He added that these neighborhoods are often host to &ldquo;open air drug markets, people being killed and shoes going up on telephone wires. &hellip;I think it&rsquo;s within that wider urban milieu that these types of events take place.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Maybe Aspholm is right. Maybe the reason behind shoe-tossing is just this simple: a coming of age story of inner city youth, colored by its own regional quirks and mixed up in the larger urban milieu of gangs, drugs and violence. Any particular pair of shoes could be up there for a variety of reasons, though it&rsquo;s probably <em>not </em>a place to buy drugs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>And so, we may keep trying to explain sneakers hanging from power lines. But if the data proves anything, this looming question, the mystery of why and how sneakers arrive on power lines, is becoming a mystery of the past.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Matt1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 387px; width: 270px;" title="" /><span style="font-size:24px;">About the Questioner</span></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Matt Latourette, 43, was shocked when we read him the raw numbers of shoe removals: more than 6,000 over the past seven years. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s amazing that there were that many taken down!&rdquo; he exclaimed. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Still, as a kid, he said he saw them all over the city.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today, Matt lives in Aurora, and rarely sees shoes hanging anywhere since their power lines are underground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know if I am just not there enough or they are actively taking them down. Or if it&rsquo;s an old thing that just isn&rsquo;t done anymore,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just interesting that everyone is aware of it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But back in his old neighborhood, it was a different story.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I noticed it all over the city and it was just something that was stuck in my mind. I was always wondering why,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He, too, had heard all rumors about what the shoes meant: drug dealing, bullying, kids being bored. But since he had never tossed his shoes, and didn&rsquo;t know anyone who had, he never learned firsthand why people had done it.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It was always a looming question, he said, shrouded in urban legends.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at <a href="http://meribahknight.com" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://www.twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 05 Aug 2015 17:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/shoes-wire-untangling-urban-myth-112575 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' finds the good in violent El Salvador http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-finds-good-violent-el-salvador-112164 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/GA-ConTextos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-cdf0efc7-d9dd-8dbb-a7b5-5af3d50420b2">Because Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, &nbsp;wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive, she started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a> and moved to El Salvador. For our Global Activism segment, Gittler is back from El Salvador and will update us on her progress since expanding her mission to work with prisoners in El Salvador&rsquo;s criminal justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/207688530&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 28 May 2015 09:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-finds-good-violent-el-salvador-112164 Former gang member describes transformation http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/former-gang-member-describes-transformation-110565 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/sc_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Carlos Kasper, 26, has already learned more about himself than most people ever do. Kasper grew up in Little Village and was raised by his step-dad and his mom &ndash; who struggled to make ends meet. &ldquo;We grew up in the gang culture,&rdquo; Kasper said in a recent StoryCorps interview. &ldquo;[We would] smoke a lot of weed, listen to a lot of gangster rap, hang out with the guys from the block.&rdquo;</p><p>As a kid he had a lot of pent-up anger and frustration. But his brother and cousins kept him out of the gangs&hellip;for a while, at least.</p><p>There was a period towards the end of high school, when Kasper learned community organizing techniques. But he soon became disillusioned with the non-profit world when he realized their focus was on eradicating gangbangers in Little Village.&nbsp; &ldquo;I took it very personal,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;Because a lot of my family is gangbangers. And I knew them and they weren&rsquo;t these savages or these evil people. They&rsquo;re just regular people who just chose another lifestyle.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Gangbangers are people&rsquo;s sons, people&rsquo;s brothers, people&rsquo;s cousins, people&rsquo;s fathers,&rdquo; he continued.</p><p>&ldquo;These [community organizer] people are acting like they&rsquo;re aliens, murderers, running around wildly.&rdquo;</p><p>Little by little, he transitioned into gang life. He appreciated the sense of brotherhood that he got as a gang member and the looks he&rsquo;d get from people who were intimidated by him.</p><p>Then he got locked up for two months in the county jail. &ldquo;I had all these problems that I didn&rsquo;t let out,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But I didn&rsquo;t take care of the root base of my deep personal issues.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m glad I got locked up,&rdquo; Kasper said. &ldquo;There was just so much time to think, so much time for reflection, so much time for meditation, exercise. And when I came out, I came out a whole different person.&rdquo;</p><p>When he got out, he refused to take orders from some gang leaders. He still valued his fellow gang members and their ideals, but he wanted to make a change for himself.</p><p>In order to get out of the gang, he agreed to a &ldquo;violation,&rdquo; which meant that he was beat up from head to toe, for three minutes by his fellow gang members, two at a time, each guy taking five to ten seconds. By the end of it, his bones were aching and he couldn&rsquo;t lift his arms above his shoulders.</p><p>He believes he ended things on good terms with the gang. &ldquo;I feel really strong being able to step in front of them without insulting them and telling them that they were my brothers and I love them, but I can&rsquo;t do these things anymore because my life had changed.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I was real with them. I kept it genuine. And I really loved them and I showed them that.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/former-gang-member-describes-transformation-110565 On day of his bond, Chicago man's actions lead to 25 more years in prison http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/day-his-bond-chicago-mans-actions-lead-25-more-years-prison-109861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/DSC_9918.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Twelve years ago, gang member Carlos &ldquo;Bear&rdquo; Rocha of Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side was imprisoned for possession of a weapon. On the day of his bond, he and another inmate had a disagreement that turned tragically violent. Bear was sentenced to another 25 years behind bars. It wasn&rsquo;t until Bear&rsquo;s brother suffered a similar fate&mdash;in prison on the day of his own release&mdash;that Bear realized the full consequences of his actions.</p><p><strong>CARLOS:</strong> I broke down because I thought that it was karma for what I had done. I thought that it was punishment for taking some else&rsquo;s life here.</p><p dir="ltr">To find out how Bear is trying to mend his ways and reckon with the past, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/day-his-bond-chicago-mans-actions-lead-25-more-years-prison-109861 Daley Academy students illustrate effects of gun violence http://www.wbez.org/news/daley-academy-students-illustrate-effects-gun-violence-109013 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 5.29.18 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>On September 19th, 2013, 13 people were wounded in a shooting at Cornell Square Park in Chicago&#39;s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Directly across from that park is Richard J. Daley Elementary Academy &mdash; a school that&#39;s been affected by gun violence not just in the park, but all over the neighborhood.</p><p>This week, Daley Academy hosted a special art show in partnership with the Illinois Coalition against Handgun Violence. WBEZ Reporter Lauren Chooljian visited the one-day-only exhibit, where a group of 25 seventh graders stood proudly behind their works, done in marker and ink, and all inspired by gun violence.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/lchooljian-0">Lauren Chooljian</a> is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</p></p> Fri, 25 Oct 2013 17:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/daley-academy-students-illustrate-effects-gun-violence-109013 Morning Shift: Black-on-black crime http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-18/morning-shift-black-black-crime-108098 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Crime-Flickr- Alessio Centamori PH.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago has become the poster child for violence, but none more pervasive than black-on-black crime. With black youths facing so many obstacles, how do we ensure that their futures can be bright, or that they will have a future at all?</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-black-on-black-crime.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-black-on-black-crime" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Black-on-black crime" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Thu, 18 Jul 2013 08:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-18/morning-shift-black-black-crime-108098 Would legal pot hit Chicago gangs’ pocketbooks? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/would-legal-pot-hit-chicago-gangs%E2%80%99-pocketbooks-106938 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90506668&amp;color=00e9ff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Elmhurst resident Siva Iyer read Sudhir Venkatesh&rsquo;s pop academic book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gang-Leader-Day-Sociologist-Streets/dp/B004E3XDFI">Gang Leader for a Day</a>, which got him thinking about the economics and industrial side of marijuana.</p><p>The culture around weed has changed over the years, enough that Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug. Is Illinois on the verge of putting legalization to a test? Not likely, but it&rsquo;s worth contemplating. Earlier this year the Illinois House passed a medical marijuana act. And the city of Chicago has decriminalized possession, a policy designed to free up police hours. Officers can now <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/has-idea-ticketing-pot-gone-smoke-104861">ticket</a> for possession of fewer than 15 grams.</p><p>Iyer, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, wondered how gangs would make up for any lost income if &mdash; one day &mdash; weed were sold on store shelves.</p><p>So Iyer asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>If Illinois legalizes marijuana, how could that affect the economics&nbsp;</em><em>of the drug trade among gangs?</em></p><p>The short answer is: not much.</p><p>Iyer and I went to visit Midwest drug czar Jack Riley in a downtown federal building. Riley is Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division for the Drug Enforcement Agency. The blunt-speaking agent described &nbsp;a &ldquo;very toxic&rdquo; and &ldquo;profitable&rdquo; relationship between Chicago street organizations and the Mexican cartels, but it doesn&rsquo;t revolve around weed.</p><p>&ldquo;If marijuana were to be legalized here,&rdquo; Riley said, &ldquo;it would in my opinion have virtually little or no effect on the income of gangs.&rdquo;</p><p>Frankly, marijuana can be a logistical nightmare, Riley explained. It smells. It&rsquo;s bulky. It&rsquo;s hard to store. And it&rsquo;s got a short shelf-life. That is, it&rsquo;s the exact opposite of Chicago gangs&rsquo; &nbsp;and cartels&rsquo; actual drug of choice: heroin.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SIVA%20FOR%20WEB_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 246px; width: 150px;" title="Siva Iyer got us started on this question." />Here are the economics, according to Riley: A pound of decent-grade marijuana can run between $1,400-1,500. A kilo of cocaine sells for about $40,000. The real cash maker, Riley said, is the more compact heroin, which goes for $60,000 a kilo. He said it arrives from Mexico 90 percent pure and is sold at a purity of nine &nbsp;to 12 percent on the street after being cut and pumped with additives.</p><p>Riley said in the local drug trade, rival gangs collaborate these days over the dealing of heroin.</p><p>&ldquo;They very seldom interacted with other gangs other than to fight. So their business relationships were siloed. If someone in that particular gang &mdash; we&rsquo;ll talk about the Gangster Disciples &mdash; if somewhere in the GDs, [if] they didn&rsquo;t have a connection to a Mexican source or supply, they simply couldn&rsquo;t get the drugs,&rdquo; Riley said. &ldquo;Well now, as long as everyone&rsquo;s making money from business, we do begin to see, for instance, the Gangster Disciples, the Latin Kings and other criminal organizations begin to work together.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DRUG CZAR GUIDE.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: left; height: 245px;" title="Data courtesy of Special Agent Jack Riley (Graphic by Logan Jaffe)" />The <a href="http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2013/apr/01/ap-impact-cartels-dispatch-agents-deep-inside-us/">Sinaloa Cartel</a> uses Chicago as a hub to distribute throughout the Midwest. The cartel&rsquo;s equivalent of a CEO is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/how-a-mexican-drug-cartel-makes-its-billions.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;">El Chapo Guzman</a> and he&rsquo;s Chicago&rsquo;s Public Enemy No. 1. The last criminal bestowed with that title was Al Capone.</p><p>Riley said Mexican cartels still do the majority of trafficking of marijuana, but higher grades of marijuana arrive from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. At this point there&rsquo;s reason to suspect that &mdash; even if Illinois tokers could buy legal weed from corner stores &mdash; these folks would still stay in business.</p><p>&ldquo;Regardless of what we did on the legalization side, it would never eliminate the black market,&rdquo; Riley said.</p><p>I interviewed a guy who sells weed in the Chicago area. (For obvious legal reasons, he didn&rsquo;t want me to use his name.) He agrees with Riley and added, &ldquo;If they legalize it, I feel they gonna take all the good sh*t off the market and make it super expensive and sell all the bad sh*t for the legal consumption. I like it the way it is now.&rdquo;</p><p>He calls Mexican weed &ldquo;regular weed,&rdquo; lacking the potency of domestic marijuana. He said his weed comes from California and is known on the street as &ldquo;loud,&rdquo; which is a pun on the loud smell and signals that it was grown via hydroponics.</p><p>If Illinois legalizes marijuana, he said, the government would certainly tax the drug. But he explained that dealers already deal with a drug hierarchy and a tax of sorts: The weed connect sells to a middleman, who is charged a tax. That middleman might want to make $200 on the package, so he&rsquo;ll &ldquo;tax&rdquo; the next dealer.</p><p>But as the marijuana dealer I interviewed said, &ldquo;I can kind of deal with that than the government.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 01 May 2013 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/would-legal-pot-hit-chicago-gangs%E2%80%99-pocketbooks-106938 Reporter's Notebook: If Illinois legalizes marijuana, how could that affect the economics of the drug trade among gangs? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/reporters-notebook-if-illinois-legalizes-marijuana-how-could-affect-economics <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/pot leaf.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0An_OJm0YASWadHhMMWQ4VHJmck5yMEdBNTlNRi1nZGc&amp;font=PTSerif-PTSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/about-curious-city-98756">Curious City</a>&nbsp;is a news-gathering experiment designed to satisfy the public&#39;s curiosity.&nbsp;People&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">submit questions</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/ask">vote&nbsp;</a>for their favorites, and WBEZ reports out the winning questions in real time, on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#!/WBEZCuriousCity">Twitter&nbsp;</a>and the timeline above.</p><p>Siva Iyer from Elmhurt&nbsp;asked:&nbsp;If Illinois legalizes marijuana, how could that affect the economics of the drug trade among gangs? WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore investigates.&nbsp;</p><p>Where do you think we should start this investigation? How would you answer this? Comment below!</p></p> Fri, 29 Mar 2013 15:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/reporters-notebook-if-illinois-legalizes-marijuana-how-could-affect-economics Crowds descend on downtown Chicago to protest school closings, 127 ticketed http://www.wbez.org/news/crowds-descend-downtown-chicago-protest-school-closings-127-ticketed-106311 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/8596861162_a734e7f296_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><object height="338" width="601"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633103902875%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633103902875%2F&amp;set_id=72157633103902875&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633103902875%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157633103902875%2F&amp;set_id=72157633103902875&amp;jump_to=" height="338" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="601"></embed></object></p><p>More than 100 people were cleared away by police at a Wednesday rally protesting Chicago Public Schools&#39;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202">proposal to close 54 schools</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/civil-disobedience-revs-against-school-closings-106353" target="_blank">A group including teacher union officials, parents, janitors, lunch ladies and ministers sat down in front of City Hall. </a>Police asked each individual to leave. When they refused, police led them away.</p><p>The Chicago Police Department says it ticketed 127 people. At the rally, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the closings a &quot;land grab and a power grab,&quot; and said they were part of an attempt to privatize the school system. For more on the rally, see WBEZ coverage <a href="http://www.wbez.org/civil-disobedience-revs-against-school-closings-106353" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday stood by the district&#39;s decision to close schools, saying <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-addresses-race-chicago-school-closure-plan-106325" target="_blank">the status quo is not working</a>.</p><p>Prior to the protest, the CTU had been training parents, teachers and community organizations in civil disobedience and had said it planned for 150 people to be arrested . &nbsp;A <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/441102002634744/">Facebook </a>announcement for the rally warned, &ldquo;They want to shut down our schools, we&rsquo;ll shut down the city.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago&rsquo;s pubic schools are out for spring break this week, leaving students and teachers free to join in the rush-hour rally, organized by the teachers union and a coalition of other unions and community groups.&nbsp; Chicago Public Schools erected barricades Monday outside its headquarters in preparation. &nbsp;A spokeswoman said that&rsquo;s common practice in situations where the district gets advance word of a protest.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools is also <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leaked-memo-tells-principals-keep-eye-school-closings-protesters-106301">preparing principals for acts of civil disobedience</a> at their schools, though not necessarily today. A memo sent to principals at closing schools lists lockdowns, walk-outs, sit-ins and &ldquo;Occupy&rdquo; actions as possibilities. It outlines &ldquo;overall guidelines for the prevention of civil disobedience&rdquo; and suggests principals &ldquo;be approachable and supportive to feelings of unrest, anxiety, or dissatisfaction.&rdquo; It also instructs principals to &ldquo;observe and report all information regarding possible protestors, locations, dates and times,&rdquo; and to note which community organizations or news organizations are present.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202">In addition to closing 53 elementary schools</a> and one small high school, the district wants to completely re-staff six additional elementary schools. It is also proposing 23 schools share 11 buildings beginning next fall; some of those are new schools that will just be opening.</p><p dir="ltr">The district says closing the 54 schools will offer students a better education because it will allow scarce resources to be spread across fewer schools. Many of the schools slated for closure have fewer than 300 students. For the first time in more than a decade of school closings, CPS is saying it will put significant money into receiving schools, promising students air conditioning, libraries with new books, &ldquo;learning gardens&rdquo; and iPads, along with social workers and counselors to help students adjust.</p><p dir="ltr">The teachers union has said it wants no schools closed, and parents at the individual schools slated for consolidation have brought up their own concerns, from longer walks to school in winter weather to fear for their children crossing into rival gang territory.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month in Philadelphia, 19 activists were arrested at a meeting where the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to close 23 schools; the head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, was among those arrested. The Chicago Teachers Union says Weingarten, who appeared at rallies here during the teachers strike in September, is not expected to be in Chicago today.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 11:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/crowds-descend-downtown-chicago-protest-school-closings-127-ticketed-106311 Year 25: Ameena Matthews http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/year-25-ameena-matthews-105541 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79283061" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>It&#39;s hard to track down Ameena Matthews.</p><p>She&#39;s constantly on call, always ready to keep conflicts in the city&#39;s most&nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ameena.jpeg" style="float: right;" title="(Photo courtesy of Kartemquin Films)" />dangerous neighborhoods from escalating to homicide.</p><p>Matthews is a violence interrupter with <a href="http://cureviolence.org/">CeaseFire Illinois</a>. You may have seen her in the documentary <a href="http://interrupters.kartemquin.com/">The Interrupters</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>During a time where it seems everyone and anyone is talking about gun violence, we thought it fitting to see what Matthews has to say and what she was up to at 25.</p><p>She wasn&#39;t always the one breaking up the fights and trying to keep the peace &mdash; gang life was a big part of her growing up.</p><p>Her father, Jeff Fort, is one of Chicago&#39;s well-known gang leaders. And Matthews will tell you herself, she didn&#39;t think she&#39;d live to see 25, as most of her youth was wrapped up in life on the streets.</p><p>That&#39;s where she begins the story of her 25th year.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 15:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/year-25-ameena-matthews-105541