(NaturalNews) Murder is, unfortunately, nothing new to the metropolis of Chicago, but the problem has escalated so much in recent years that now some crime experts have - rightfully - labeled it an epidemic.
As gangs battle each over for turf, respect, a larger share of the drug trade - or just because they don't like each other - so many innocent people are being gunned down in the crossfire that residents of the Windy City are demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his police chief, Garry McCarthy, do more to protect them.
For Chicago Police - whose special Gang Enforcement Unit is outnumbered by gang members 500-to-1 - the problem is much more complex than the math.
"Almost all the violence we're seeing now is from the gangs," police Sgt. Matt Little, who heads one of the special units, told CBS News recently.
More than 275 people have been shot to death in Chicagoland so far this year; scores more have been wounded, many seriously. Far too many are children; some victims are toddlers. By far, most of the murder and mayhem is occurring in the city's poor sections, where minorities are bearing the brunt of the assault.
"When there's a shooting we'll respond to the shooting. We'll figure out where we believe the most likely area for retaliation is and we'll work that area trying to both prevent retaliation and possibly build a case on offenders," Little said.
'Gangs have lost their hierarchy'
But it's a strategy that the gangs appear to have figured out because the arrests are few and getting anyone to talk to cops is even more difficult.
One reason why the violence is sparking, say cops, is because the gang dynamic has changed in recent years.
"The gangs have lost their hierarchy, so to speak, and without a chain of command, there's really nobody keeping things in check," said Little.
Most gang leaders are in jail - or dead - he said. Those who remain are young, reckless and very poor shots, hence the large and growing number of innocent people being killed or wounded.
"Instead of a bullet with somebody's name on it, we have a bullet that reads 'To whom it may concern,'" Little said of gang members' indiscriminate firing.
One recent victim was 7-year-old Heaven Sutton. She was gunned down while selling candy outside her house.
"We care about the grandmother that lives in the Graystone who's raising her grandchildren. We care about the guy who's a hard-working stiff who gets up in the morning and works two jobs," Little said.
It's all about - values?
In an attempt to gain control, Little and his fellow officers are using technology and psychology. They use interviews with gang members themselves to learn their whereabouts, habits or grudges they have, so police are better prepared to anticipate trouble before it erupts.
The city itself, meanwhile, is also being aggressive. Businesses where gang members are known to hang out are being examined more closely for possible violations, such as expired business licenses. Vacant buildings where gangs congregate, store weapons and drugs are being shuttered or torn down.
Chicago's mayor, former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, says his new strategy will be effective. He has also chastised gang members themselves recently for - oddly enough - lacking "values."
"We've got two gang bangers, one standing next to a kid. Get away from that kid. Take your stuff away to the alley. Don't touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don't get near them. And it is about values," Emanuel told CBS News. "How were you raised? And I don't buy this case where people say they don't have values. They do have values. They have the wrong values. Don't come near the kids -- don't touch them."
Odd. If gang bangers had "values" they wouldn't be gang bangers.
Not easy to follow the "logic" of the man who coined the phrase, "Never let a good crisis go to waste."
For the record, homicides in Chicago are up 39 percent compared to New York City, where murders are down 17 percent.