While Bucktown and Wicker Park aren't as well known as other areas of the city for gang activity, a few of each neighborhood's problem areas—some of which are near schools—are now being linked to the city's largest and most violent gangs.
According to research by the Chicago Police Department, the city blocks surrounding Western Avenue, north of Milwaukee, are home to the Spanish Lords and the Maniac Latin Disciples.
The Spanish Lords' territory lies east of Western from Milwaukee to Fullerton avenues, including Holstein Park Public School. The Maniac Latin Disciples' territory extends west from Western and into Logan Square, according to WBEZ’s interactive map.
The map also shows a smaller pocket of Maniac Latin Disciples territory in Wicker Park along Ashland Avenue from North Avenue to Blackhawk Street and between Beach Avenue and Blackhawk Street from Paulina Street to Ashland. The Latin Kings also hold a small territory in Wicker Park along Leavitt Street between Pierce Avenue and Schiller Street and along Schiller from Hoyne Avenue to Leavitt near Albert Sabin Public School.
A recent “gang audit” looked at police statistics and talked with residents and gang experts to discover what gangs are present, where they hang out and who they’re in conflict with. While the results from the most recent gang audit have yet to be made fully public, WBEZ's map is based on information from 2010.
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The local gang areas make up a relatively small percentage of Bucktown-Wicker Park, but the Latin Kings are one of the largest gangs in the country, with an estimated 10,000 members in Illinois alone, according to a January FBI statement about the conviction of one of the Kings' national leaders in Chicago. They were linked to allegations of police corruption in the city last year, according to WBEZ.
The Maniac Latin Disciples don't have the kind of membership the Latin Kings do. The Sun-Times reported in February that the gang had between 300 and 500 members in the city. According to that report, Chicago Police declared war on the gang in 2011 with an ongoing series of intense crackdowns.
And it’s not just Bucktown and Wicker Park that should be aware of gang activity in the North Side. Lake View has a large area belonging to the Gangster Disciples, while Roscoe Village has a large territory that’s home to the Insane Deuces gang and the Latin Kings and Black P Stone occupy almost all of Uptown.
CPD Chief of Organized Crime Nicholas Roti spoke with WBEZ after releasing the gang maps, and according to its report, releasing them to the public is considered a double-edged sword. While it helps area police and residents identify potential problem areas, he says it could be used for the wrong reasons.
"We don't want to either glorify a gang or maybe unintentionally cause a gang rift," Chief Roti told WBEZ. "You (a gang member) could look at a map and say, 'They got way more territory than us.'”
Check out the full map of Chicago on WBEZ’s website.