George Will

     The crime-infested Robert Taylor high-rise housing projects on the South Side have been closed and the Cabrini-Green project on the near North Side is being closed, which means a jostling for social space among displaced drug dealers. Cline says there were about 100 open-air drug markets in the city last year. Police closed about half of them, producing more displacements as markets opened elsewhere in the city. This process is frustrating but constructive because it means some slowing of the drug trade. But it can also cause an uptick in violence as dealers contest desirable turf.

     Cline says that when 100 markets are each pulling in $5,000 a day, serious money is at stake. Some of the money buys the guns that settle struggles for turf. Last year police seized 10,509 guns -- 29 a day. They probably will seize as many this year; they did in 2003. But this is not an exercise in bailing the ocean: Stiff sentences for gun possession, and stiffer ones for firing a gun, put a high price tag on regarding a gun as fashion necessity for the well-accessorized young man.

     Last year about 18,000 of the inmates released from Illinois prisons came back to Chicago; perhaps 25,000 will this year. Some of the returning convicts come home expecting to reclaim their shares of the drug business. Some of the younger dealers will decide it is easier to kill them than accommodate them.

     A new ``shot spotter'' technology can detect the trajectory of a bullet and direct a camera that scans 360 degrees. Soon there will be 80 such cameras watching strategic intersections. There is nothing surreptitious about this -- indeed, the cameras have blue lights and Chicago Police Department logos. The CPD wants dealers to know the area is being watched. The cost of the cameras is paid by seized assets from dealers. So, Cline says contentedly, ``they're paying to surveil themselves.''

     Cline says the message to the neighborhoods is: ``We will take the corner back. You must hold the corner.'' Again, as in Baghdad.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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