Wednesday’s convictions of six reputed leaders of the Hobos “super gang” will take a significant slice of evil off of Chicago’s streets.
U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon’s racketeering conspiracy prosecution of gang leaders who were linked to as many as nine murders in a decade, as well as kidnappings, robberies and shootings, was exactly the kind of determined effort we need to help rid Chicago of incessant violence. Now, authorities at every level should redouble their efforts to go after the very worst offenders, those who most victimize vulnerable Chicago neighborhoods.
The 15-week trial that started shortly after Labor Day laid out a litany of murders, drug dealers robbed at gunpoint, targeted informants, gang rivals who were kidnapped and tortured and even the brazen robbery of former NBA player Bobby Simmons, whose costly necklace was snatched at a night club.
The number of convictions on Wednesday was not large, but by going after those at the very top, prosecutors disrupted, perhaps even destroyed, a criminal enterprise that was larger than its numbers. Credit also goes to the anonymous jurors who did their jobs in a tense atmosphere that led to an inmate taking two extra months behind bars because, as he told the judge, “I choose not to testify for the sake of me and my family.”
When President-elect Donald Trump appoints a replacement for Fardon to lead the local U.S. attorney’s office, he should select someone who will continue such important prosecutions — while also doing more to help get illegal guns off of Chicago streets.
In October, the Sun-Times reported federal weapons charges in Chicago had dropped slightly over the past five years, falling behind such jurisdictions as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Detroit. We’d like to see the Chicago numbers go up.
Bringing a prosecution such as the Hobos gang case is a huge undertaking that requires years and tons of resources. But pursuing lesser cases, such as illegal gun trafficking, also is important. And there’s an advantage in having the feds prosecute both types. Federal convictions send gang members to federal prisons, which generally are far from family and associates. Moreover, federal prisons are less likely to be run by gangs. And federal penalties can be stiffer. Those convicted at the Hobos trial could wind up with life sentences.
Over the New Year’s weekend in Chicago, 55 people were shot, six of them fatally. Last year, 762 people were murdered here, by the Chicago Police Department’s count. Bringing down those numbers is complicated. We know that any long-term strategy must include more jobs, better schools and strong family structures.
But good schools and business can’t thrive where bullets fly incessantly. A big part of reducing violence means taking the most dangerous people off the streets.
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