Are Gangs Once Again America’s #1 Crime Problem?

The last two weeks of newspaper headlines from around the country strongly suggest that gangs are once again America’s number one violent crime problem.

Just 100 miles southeast of Spingola Files HQ, Chicago is in the midst of a summer bloodbath, as street gangs on that city’s south and west sides battle over drug turf. Things are so bad that the mayor of Los Angeles, of all places, has called Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to offer suggestions.

With Chicago on its way to becoming our nation’s murder capital, smaller cities are also being bit by the gang bug.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sean Larkin, a sergeant on the Tulsa PD gang task force, notes that a “no-snitch” culture makes it difficult for investigators to piece together enough evidence to obtain convictions in gang related shootings.

When speaking to suburbanites about the lack of cooperation police receive in troubled neighborhoods, those in attendance often look perplexed.  How is it, they ask, that a witness might refuse to offer the police their assistance to rid their neighborhood gang violence? The answer, of course, is that many people lack the resources needed to relocate when those they are set to testify against threaten and intimidate them. To survive in their own neighborhoods, they do not want anyone identifying them as police informants—akin to a death wish in some parts of Milwaukee.

For much of the past decade, Milwaukee County did not have a witness protection program, which meant that potential citizen testifiers in gang infested neighborhoods, more-or-less, were left to fend for themselves.

Moreover, many of those living in high crime areas believe the police unfairly target young, African-American males suspected of participating in the drug trade.  In a certain sense, these individuals see the police as overzealous regulators of the  urban marketplace—similar to the way many legitmate businesses view the DNR or the Environmental Protection Agency.

For those interested in learning more about gang subcultures, pick-up a copy of  The Cozen Protocol—Mitchell Nevin’s Milwaukee-based novel that shows what occurs when gang violence and police corruption meet.  Many former officers believe this book, although a supposed work of fictional, depicts a series of actual crimes that paint an outstanding portrait of how and why street gangs flourish.

Most investigators agree that each gang war is unique and that the thug subculture is often times complex. Still, a comprehensive strategy to reduce gang violence through tough enforcement has proved successful in the past.

In Milwaukee, retired Captain Glenn Frankovis used officers deployed as part of directed patrol missions to curtail gang activity in districts Two, Five and Three.  My advice to the Godfather—the moniker for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—is to disregard the touchy-feely approach used in Los Angeles and, instead, give Frankovis a call. Getting tough on gangs is not rocket science, but it does require that those participating check their politically correct opinions at the door.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His new book, Best of the Spingola Files, is now available at

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit


© Steven Spingola,Wales, WI, 2012

One Response

  1. Glenn Frankovis

    Proper deployment, policing strategy, use of the laws and ordinances available to you and the summary arrest, coordination and cooperation within the agency, authority vested in the Districts rather than some central operation, support from the politicians and prosecutors and Judges who are supposed to be representing the good people in their respective districts, and building trust and confidence with the decent folk in these crime ridden neighborhoods are essential to reducing crime. Concerns about testifying are easily addressed with the proper communication network between the good people and the District Commander.

    July 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

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