By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS)–Chicago street gangs are put under a magnifying glass in a new book revealed by the Chicago Crime Commission this week.

The updated “Gang Book”–a who’s who of Chicago gang members–lists more than 2,400 gang factions that have splintered from some the 50 active gangs in Chicago.

The Chicago Crime Commission says it’s the most comprehensive study of Chicago street gangs–ever.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams looks at the numbers and one factor driving gang violence here in Chicago.

As a senior curriculum specialist for the “Becoming a Man” program (BAM), Marshaun Bacon has devoted his life to stopping the behavior described in these 400 pages.

“We want to help students–regardless of their gang affiliation–to get them to the point where they realize, hey, maybe there’s something better out there for me–and then we support them through that transition.”

It’s a tall task, according to The Gang Book. The Chicago Crime Commission describes gangs in the book as “the worst of the worst.”

“The most violent, the most notorious in their communities,” said Andrew Henning of the Chicago Crime Commission.

The Gang Book reveals new trends used by the estimated 100,000 street gang members in Chicago, including the use of social media and music lyrics to taunt rivals. The book’s authors describe social media as modern-day graffiti.

Shannon O’Brien of the Illinois Attorney General’s office says it’s difficult for authorities to monitor the sheer volume of the social media presence of Chicago gangs.

“These kids generally don’t have one account open, they have 15,” O’Brien said. “So you can close down one of them, and they are just going to pop up under a different name, different image.”

Bacon best piece of advice to young men touched by gangs is to think before taking impulsive actions.

“Taking that deep breath before one reacts -whether it’s in the streets or whether it’s because a boss just said something I don’t like,” Bacon said.

Although men find often find gangs alluring, the Youth Guidance Organization, which oversees BAM, has a similar program called “Working on Womanhood” for young females.

About 10 percent of street gang members in Chicago are female, but that number is growing.

 

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