From the Washington Times
Homicides spike in Chicago
Up 50% over ‘11; police to saturate areas under siege
by Don Babwin
CHICAGO | Maybe it is the splintering of established drug gangs that has young men grabbing the tools of their trade - handguns - to jockey for position? Or it is that rival gangs, once miles apart in different public housing complexes, suddenly finding themselves sharing the same street corner?
Whatever the reasons, Chicago has seen a spike in its homicide rate - with eight killed and at least 35 wounded in a spasm of gunfire last weekend alone - that has authorities scrambling to put more police on the street and some frightened residents retreating deep into their homes.
To be sure, the violence is nowhere near its historical peak of the early 1990s when Chicago recorded roughly 900 homicides per year. But from Jan. 1 through late May there were 203 homicides, an increase of more than 50 percent over the 134 during the same period in 2011.
And in some neighborhoods, just miles but a world away from the gleaming lake and lush parks of which the city is so proud, gunfire has produced the kind of death toll that would alarm entire cities.
In Englewood, a roughly 20-by-20 block South Side neighborhood, homicides jumped from 40 in 2010 to 60 last year - an increase that almost equals the tally of 21 homicides in the city of Seattle for all of 2011. The total number of homicides in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C. and Kansas City, Mo., each barely double the toll in Englewood alone.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made combatting gangs a priority and has stood with police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to unveil a plan of attack. Among the new police tactics is the deployment of dozens of specialized undercover officers to units on Chicago's West and South sides and saturating those neighborhood streets with uniformed cops.
In addition, Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed into law the Illinois Street Gang RICO Act, which aims to dismantle gangs by boosting penalties for crimes performed as part of a criminal enterprise.
Though police are loath to attribute this winter's unusually warm weather as a possible factor, because it smacks of excuse-making, there were far more people on the streets in January, February and March - including gang members - than during those months in 2011.
Just as important have been dramatic changes within the gangs themselves.
“In the past, the gangs were very organized from the top down,” said Sgt. Matthew Little of the Chicago Police Department's gang enforcement unit. As more gang leaders are arrested, convicted and sent to prison, the gangs they left behind have become “very splintered,” he said.
Young men on the city's streets agree.
“There is no one to control this, so it has become haywire,” said Devon Tims, who identified himself as one of the Chicago Vice Lords, making him one of the city's estimated 70,000 gang members
Human-trafficking hotline calls show ‘groundswell of interest'
by Chuck Neubauer
Human trafficking has been described by the Justice Department as “a big moneymaker for criminals and a scourge to society” and a group that seeks to help those caught in its grips says the number of callers to its national hotline identifying themselves as victims is increasing — and that's good.
“This is really significant,” said Sarah Jakiel , deputy director of the Washington-based Polaris Project . “It is such a hidden and isolated crime. … The message is getting out.”
The Polaris Project , the largest group focused on human trafficking in the United States, says its hotline calls from those who identified themselves as victims jumped by nearly 61 percent last year. The group describes the increase in a report to be released Tuesday as “encouraging,” given the covert nature of the crime and the historic reluctance of victims to come forward.
The number of calls from people identifying themselves victims shot up from 471 in 2010 to 756 in 2011, the report says. The total number of calls to the hotline also increased by 64 percent from 11,874 in 2010 to 19,427 in 2011. In addition to potential victims, the hotline receives calls from family members and friends as well community members and others.
“This issue is getting traction,” Ms. Jakiel said. “There is a real groundswell of interest.”
As a result of the calls, the report says, the hotline connected 2,945 potential victims of human trafficking to services and support in 2011. Callers also provided detailed information on 848 unique cases of potential human trafficking.
The report said truckers “are one of the main sources of information for the hotline about situations of sex trafficking involving minors.” Truckers, who often are approached by minors at truck stops, made 185 hotline calls in 2011. The report notes that many truckers are aware of the hotline because of a campaign by a group called Truckers Against Trafficking.
Ms. Jakiel said there is a “significant presence” of human trafficking in the D.C. area, adding that D.C. ranks fifth, Virginia seventh and Maryland 13th on the list of states with the highest number of reports of potential human trafficking cases or victims in 2011.
“In Northern Virginia, there have been several child sex-trafficking rings involving gang members targeting high school girls using social media and other techniques for recruitment,” she said.
Many crime groups have turned to trafficking, including the Crips, one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the United States. It has spread its network of crime into Virginia high schools, where gang leaders recruit girls as prostitutes with promises of “lots of money” and then maintain their allegiance through beatings, threats, assaults and an endless supply of drugs.
One of the groups involved was the Underground Gangster Crips, five of whose members were charged in Fairfax County with running a prostitution business that recruited high school girls and threatened them with violence if they attempted to leave. Most of the girls involved were 15 and 16 and, according to court records, were afraid to report their “pimps” to police after what authorities described as violent and frequent beatings and threats.
Last March, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a meeting of the president's task force on human trafficking that the Polaris hotline was “really making a difference in reaching out to survivors and helping us prosecute abusers.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has announced plans to designate a person to oversee all Justice Department activities concerning human trafficking, enabling the department to be even more effective in its efforts to combat such crimes and reach victims.
Polaris operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline which is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. The nationwide hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.