As the murder rate in Chicago continues to skyrocket, the question that many are asking is… why? What happened? What factors on the ground are creating a breeding ground for the upswing in violent crime? Although many have pointed to the recession, that only tells part of the story.
Bloomberg reports that Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman supplies “80 percent of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — with a street value of $3 billion — that floods the Chicago region each year.” He operates from a highly guarded and secure area in northern Mexico, and he is one of the most feared drug dealers in the trade and employs over 150,000 people.
Guzman, also known as El Chapo, has created a “steady flow” of drugs to Chicago, creating a turf war among Chicago’s African-American and Latino gangs.
“Most of Chicago’s violent crime comes from gangs trying to maintain control of drug-selling territories,” said Jack Riley, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Guzman supplies a majority of the narcotics that fuel this violence.”
Police say Guzman has deliberately set a goal for making Chicago his “home port.” According to Art Bilek, executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, Guzman has succeeded in making Chicago a hot spot for drugs.
“We had freelance distributors in Chicago before,” Bilek says. “Guzman has taken them over one by one. He centralized everything — the shipping, warehousing and distribution of drugs, and the collection and transport of money back to Mexico.”
Bilek says cartel leaders in the city help with flow.
Since Guzman has gained total control, he has raised prices, causing gang members to fight for turn to increase profits.
With Guzman gaining near-monopoly control, they can’t negotiate prices: He personally dictates how much distributors pay his operatives, court documents allege. In the past decade, wholesale heroin prices have doubled in Chicago to the current cost of $80,000 a kilogram, says Nick Roti, head of anti-gang enforcement for the city’s police. For street sellers to keep profits flowing, they must seize ground in sometimes lethal block-by-block combat.
The murders during the Guzman era far surpass those of the 1990s crack era. Guzman has also taken advantages of the fact that racketeering laws have taken gang leaders off the street. The destabilization of gangs and the gang hierarchy also impacts the level of violence.
“The biggest driver of violence in Chicago — and where it’s becoming difficult to address — is the factionalizing or breaking down of the bigger gangs into these smaller cliques,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
Last year over 500 people were killed in Chicago.