Chicago Street Gangs Increasing Presence in Suburbs
Children, families share space with those whose intentions are less than innocent
By CAROL MARIN
A child shot in Mount Prospect this past spring. Nearly two dozen gang members arrested by federal agents in suburbs from Streamwood to Wheeling. Tensions between rival gangs rise at Palatine High School.
All are a part of Chicago street gangs growing presence in the suburbs, according to law enforcement officials.
Once mainly the province of the streets of Chicago, gangs have moved into areas many may find hard to believe. Pick a suburb — north, south or west — and chances are there are gang influences.
That’s true in Rolling Meadows, where Bernice and Knut Marin moved in the mid-1950s.
For my family, this was home. Bobolink Lane is where we moved from Chicago when I was seven years old. It was my parent’s American dream.
Today, a few old friends remain on the block. But according to Officer Roger Valdez of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police, gang members now live in Rolling Meadows and the surrounding suburbs, too.
“We have a large section of Latin Kings and Surenos,” Valdez said as we sat on a stoop at the Colonial Apartments on the edge of Rolling Meadows and Mount Prospect.
Valdez and his partner Larry Rivlin have seen Chicago gangs encroach on neighborhoods from Palatine to Arlington Heights, Morton Grove to Schaumburg.
“Vice Lords, GD’s, Four Corner Hustlers, Black P Stones…” Valdez calls out the names of gangs associated mainly with Chicago. “But they have small pockets, not enough to show resistance to these two large groups, the Latin Kings and Surenos.”
The Surenos are an off-shoot of the Mexican Mafia. In the Colonial Apartments on Algonquin Road, members are easy to find but reluctant to talk.
At Palatine High School, my alma mater, a dispute between the Kings and Surenos has law enforcement on almost daily patrols.
“There were towns that clearly did not have any real gang issues as such to speak of 10 years ago, 15 years ago for sure, that now have not just gang issues but serious gang issues,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
It is a problem, Dart says, that some suburban police chiefs don’t want to discuss. The police chief in Palatine declined to comment. In Schaumburg, the police chief maintains there is no significant gang issue. While in Rolling Meadows the police chief would talk only if other chiefs spoke as well.
Dart said there is a reason they are hesitant.
“Because they fear it is going to negatively impact the view that people have of their town and it would hurt their town and property values,” he explained.
So where did the gangs come from?
In part, from the Chicago Housing Authority, said Cook County Gang Crimes Commander Derrick Carey.
“There’s no boundaries for them right now. Most of them are very mobile,” he said.
As demolition began on high-rise public housing over the last decade, boundaries deteriorated and gang members headed for new territory: the suburbs.
“In the past, we have had some incidents in, I want to call it, the more elite suburbs financially,” Carey said.
The CHA disputes that notion. According to spokeswoman Kelly O’Connell-Miller, the idea of former residents causing an increase in suburban crime is incorrect.
“They are a convenient target for the Sheriff’s Department,” she said.
It’s not that gangs haven’t always had a suburban base. But now, at least according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office, their numbers are expanding and changing the makeup of towns and villages, including pockets of Rolling Meadows and the surrounding suburbs.
Growing up as children, many of us take for granted that we will have a safe place to live and someone to care for us. It was true for me growing up here in Bobolink Lane.
And despite the presence of gang members not far away at the Colonial apartments, it remains the hope of the kids who live there, too.
As we talk, the innocent faces of young kids who also call this home surround us.
“They want the American dream,” said Officer Valdez. “And that’s why they are here.”
Sharing space with others whose intent is less than innocent.