Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mapping the Gangs of Chicago-is there any value?

The Chicago Crime Commission creates maps of gang territories for internal use. Elliott Ramos from radio station WBEZ obtained these maps in a freedom of information request and made them available through WBEZ's web page. Here is a sample map.

With 59 or more gangs and 625 different factions you need the kind of crazy patterned symbols seen above to distinguish them all. Here is a sample legend for this particular west side neighborhood.
Ramos took these maps and created an interactive gang map, overlaid onto google maps.

There is an interesting discussion on WBEZ's Afternoon Shift with Ramos, Natalie Moore, author of The Almighty Black P Stone Nation, and CPD's Chief of Organized Crime, Nicholas Roti. Both Moore and Roti are very skeptical of the worth of making these maps available. They stigmatize neighborhoods and gangs themselves, many of which are not associated with any criminal activity. The maps also are out of date and in the case of many gangs oversimplify a more complex geographical structure. Roti also expresses concern that the maps could cause gang rifts by showing the uneven distribution of territory. Finally, there's the inevitable confusion that gang presence on a block means gang dominance or high crime.

So should these maps really be made public? Maybe not. Should I have posted them on this blog? Maybe not but I couldn't resist.

via The Atlantic Cities

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