FOIA Week of Action: Find Out If CPD Added Your Information To Their Gang Database

From November 8 through November 23, join one of the many FOIA workshops around the city to find out if your information is on the Chicago Police Department’s gang database.

[ Why is this important? ]

Over 195, 000 people are listed on the Chicago Police Department’s gang database. — 95% of people in this list are Black or Latinx. Many of them are not aware that their information is on the Chicago Gang Database.

The Office of the Inspector General has called the gang database “incomplete and contradictory.” For years advocates have also pointed the system lacks transparency and accountability. Yet CPD continues to share people’s information with 500 other external agencies and federal law enforcement –which can affect housing, employment, parole, and immigration rulings.

Check out a FOIA Clinic Near You

HANA Center
Date: Friday, November 8, 2019
Schedule: Social at 4:30 pm
Workshop at 5:00 pm
Location: HANA Center (4300 N. California Ave, 2nd Floor)
Details: Organized by FYSH (Fighting Youth Shouting out for Humanity)

Enlace Chicago
Date: Saturday, November 9, 2019
Schedule: 4:00 pm
Location: Enlace Chicago Office (2329 S. Troy Ave)

Latino Union
Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Schedule: Workshop at 6:00 pm
Location: Latino Union (4811 N. Central Park Ave)

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Schedule: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Centro De Trabajadores (10638 S. Ewing Ave)

Date: Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Schedule: Workshop at 6:00pm
Location: Second Federal Bank (2523 S. Pulaski Rd.)

UIC Policing in Chicago Research Group
Date: Monday November 18, 2019
Schedule: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Location: UIC Arab American Cultural Center
(701 S. Morgan St. – 111 Stevenson Hall)
Details: Organized in coordination with #StopCVE and #CIAOffCampus

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Schedule: Workshop at 6:30pm
Location: SketchPad (4700 N. Ravenswood Ave)

Date: Saturday, November 23, 2019
Schedule: 3:00 pm
Location: BYP100 Office (239 E. 51st)

GD FOIA Week of Action Flyer - Updated

Accountability After Abolition – Report by the Policing Research Group in Chicago

In response to community demands for public accountability and for a responsible process of abolition that provides restitution to people harmed by the database, the Policing in Chicago Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago carried out an evaluation of RGID. We analyzed two partial versions of the RGID database (from June 2018 and January 2019), CCSO policies and procedures, data-sharing agreements with hundreds of external agencies, and thousands of pages of internal communications of the CCSO leading up to the decision to decommission the database. These documents were made available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by ProPublica and by the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University.

This report outlines what we know about RGID and the questions that remain.

Accountability After Abolition - Final Draft

CALL TO ACTION: No New Gang Database in Chicago

Coalition members holding banner that reads erase the gang database


No New Gang Database in Chicago

Submit comments TODAY against a new gang database in Chicago and call your Alderman to stop the Chicago Police Department from moving forward.

The comment period ends May 11th, 2019

Step 1: Prepare your comments. Using your own words, and using as many points as you would like, such as: 
  • CPD should follow the recommendations of the Inspector General and stop the creation of a new gang database;
  • The Criminal Enterprise Database goes around a fair legislative process, and cuts out City Council and community experts from giving real input;
  • A new gang database does not address violence in our neighborhoods, we need funds for schools, mental health providers, violence interrupters programs, and local organizations.
  • CPD should stop the creation of the Criminal Enterprise Database.
Step 2: Click here to submit 
Step 3: Document your comment to CPD.
  • Take a screenshot or copy and paste, and send us a copy of your comment. We want to know what comments our communities are submitting.
  • Want to keep in touch? Sign this petition, and we’ll keep you updated about the efforts.
Step 4: Share this call to action on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.


Questions and Answers on the

New Criminal Enterprise Database

What is the Criminal Enterprise Database?

  • After the Chicago Gang Database was exposed for being ineffective, circumventing due process, and targeting Black and Latino communities, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) declared that they would create a new database, now called the “Criminal Enterprise Database.” 
  • The database is being created against the recommendation of the Office of Inspector General and without meaningful input from experts or the members of the community. 
  • In order to say that they have taken the public into account, the police department has an “open comment” period for Chicagoans to submit their thoughts on the creation of this new gang database.

Why do we oppose a new gang database?

  • Simply put, the research shows that we should not trust the police department to create a new gang database, without oversight, without input from experts, and against the recommendations from the Inspector General.  
  • There has been no guarantee that the issues identified with the Gang Database won’t be replicated in the new one. The proposal is that information and appeals are still reviewed internally, only within the CPD and requires a background check, there is indication that CPD plans to continue to share this information with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies – potentially including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  
  • The new gang database does nothing to address the harm that the current Chicago Gang Database has caused Chicagoans. The CPD has said they will keep all of the information in their system, and add a note that the information may or may not be accurate.

What can we do right now?

  • We need people to submit comments to the CPD website. Please see examples. We know that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) – the police union –  works hard to get their police officers to comment in favor of these proposals, and we need to make sure there are community members also submitting our comments.  
  • Call your Alderman, and make sure they take a stand against the creation of a new Gang Database being created without oversight and against OUG recommendations. 
  • Sign this petition to add your name to the list of people opposing the creation of a new Gang Database:

What about the old database?

  • CPD continues to keep the information available to over 500 agencies, including ICE and Chicago Public Schools, without reviews, audits, or opportunities for challenges. We believe they should stop using the information and stop giving access to other agencies, especially the ones that have no official agreements with the city.  
  • The OIG report only investigated a small fraction of the gang database entries into the CLEAR system, and should be fully audited and investigated by City Council. There are potentially another 10-15 ways information can be input into the gang database. The OIG audit only covered gang arrest cards.  
  • Mayor-elect Lightfoot should direct the city to release information to community organizations regarding the gang database, requested via Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit against the city, so that we can get a full picture of the activities of the CPD regarding the gang database.

This call to action was put together by the Erase the Database Coalition. For more information visit

New Report on Regional Gang Intelligence Database

On February 21, 2019 the coalition to Erase the Cook County Gang Database  successfully passed an Ordinance 19-0687, “To Prohibit the Use of the Terminated Regional Gang Intelligence Database (RGID) and Affiliated Data.” Since its passage the Ordinance prohibits the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) from adding more information to the RGID, sharing information the the database and it set up steps for the CCSO to follow in order to dismantle the gang database. Although the RGID is no longer active, community groups believe the harm these databases cause do not cease to exist when the information is destroyed. 

Today, community groups and researchers from the University of Chicago released a report into the RGID based on a  FOIA request for the final version of the Regional Gang Intelligence Database (RGID) when it was decommissioned on January 15, 2019.

RGID Report March 2019


Community-Driven Federal Class Action Lawsuit & Report Targets Chicago Police’s Inaccurate, Racially Discriminatory Gang Database

At least 195,000 individuals – 95% Black and Latinx – are listed in an error-filled database from which their names can never be removed.

Chicago – The Chicagoans for an End to the Gang Database, a coalition of individuals and community organizations, gathered in City Hall on Tuesday to announce a new federal class action against the City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department (CPD), targeting CPD’s unconstitutional Gang Database, and urging City Council to take action.

The suit was filed on behalf of four individual plaintiffs, three Black and one Latino. Each plaintiff was falsely identified as a gang member and has since been subjected to irreparable harm and harassment because of the wrongful designation.

“The Chicago Police Department documented me as a gang member when I was just 14,” said Lawrence Vaile, one class member. “The police would stop me and ask me what gang I’m in, they would slap me for lying to them because the computer shows them I’m in the gang. This put me in danger from the cops and from the streets.”

Also joining the lawsuit are a number of community-based organizations with deep roots in Chicago’s Black and Latinx communities, including Black Youth Project 100- Chicago, Blocks Together, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Latino Union, Mijente, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos-Immigrant Worker’s Project, and Organized Communities Against Deportations.

“This database hasn’t led to positive change for the Chicago communities directly impacted. Our tax dollars should not be spent on instruments of racism, or on tools that criminalize and scapegoat people of color.  Chicago’s so-called problem with violence is rooted in our city’s problem with racism and inequality.  Our resources should be used on the tools, projects and initiatives that enhance our communities, bring ordinary people together, and allow us to prosper”, said Todd St Hill, Member of BYP100.

In addition to using the database to harass and falsely detain people, CPD provides its incorrect, inconsistent database to third parties. This shared, inaccurate information triggers further repercussions that can include job loss, denial of access to public housing and public education, inability to secure certain licensures, ineligibility for bond, and possible deportation.

“As long as the Gang Database continues to indiscriminately add Latinx and Black Chicagoans to their list, Mayor Emanuel cannot call Chicago a Sanctuary City for anyone. Making Chicago safe for immigrants starts today with making sure that the gang database stops being a  list of people for ICE to pick up during immigration raids,” said Tania Unzueta, Policy Director for Mijente and one of the organizational plaintiffs.

The lawsuit notes that CPD has not developed any consistent guidelines on inclusion in the Gang database, such as information on an individual’s criminal conduct or active gang activity. Instead, CPD officers have unlimited discretion to add names to the list.

“CPD has long been on notice that the Gang Database discriminates against Black and Brown Chicagoans and violates people’s constitutional rights by creating barriers to employment and immigration relief, subjecting people to unlawful detention and searches and seizures and constant police harassment and surveillance. The gang database is riddled with inaccuracies and serves no legitimate law enforcement purpose—all it does is further institutionalize CPD’s well documented policy and practice of racial profiling.”  Said Vanessa del Valle, counsel for the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The CPD confirmed that, as of May 2018, the Gang Database lists more than 128,000 adults. Although data on juveniles was not released, a new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Policing in Chicago Research Group estimates that the total number is closer to 195,000. Of those, 95% are Black or Latinx.

The lawsuit makes the demands from community organizations requesting that the Court enter an order requiring that the City of Chicago and CPD implement the following changes:

  1. Criteria for entry into Gang Database. An individual may only be designated a gang member upon a sworn declaration from two or more detectives setting forth the basis the detectives believe that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is a gang member. All entries into the database must be approved by the Superintendent and by CPD general counsel. CPD may not designate any person a gang member based solely on the following: Race/ethnicity/country of origin/immigration status, Law enforcement action occurring in alleged “gang territory,” Attire, Tattoos, Residence, Relations and/or known associates, Type of conviction, School/school location, Surveillance of social media, A statement that an individual “self-reported” gang membership, unless admission of gang membership was provided under penalty of perjury and with the advice of counsel.
  2. Notice of Gang Designation. CPD will provide written notice to every individual who is currently or who has within the last 20 years been designated a gang member in one or more of CPD’s databases. The notice will state the following: 1) the date the individual was designated a gang member; 2) the gang(s) with which the individual is alleged to be have been affiliated; 3) the basis for the designation; 4) the name of the officer(s) who made the initial designation; 5) any external agencies that have access to that designation, and the dates on which any external agency accessed that designation; and 6) the most recent date of any audit or assessment of the accuracy of that designation. On a quarterly basis, CPD will provide written notice containing the same information to every individual who has been designated as gang affiliated and remains in a CPD database.
  3. Opportunity to contest Gang Designation. Any person who contests their designation as a gang member shall have the right to an administrative hearing presided over by neutral, non-law enforcement affiliated fact finder for the purposes of determining whether CPD can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the individual is a gang member. If CPD cannot meet its burden, the individuals shall be stricken from the database and provided with documentation certifying that CPD lacked sufficient evidence to impose the Gang Designation.
  4. Data Sharing. CPD is prohibited from providing gang designations to any third party entity. On a quarterly basis CPD will publish data about the individuals designated as gang affiliated, disaggregated by: Race/ethnicity; Gender; Age; Alleged gang affiliation(s);Basis for identifying alleged affiliation(s);Location of police interaction that lead to designation(s); Date of first designation and; Number of arrests for serious or violent crime.

The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and alleges multiple violations of due process protections under the U.S. Constitution. The suit also alleges that the manner in which CPD gathers and disseminates false information about gang membership violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination. Defendants include the City of Chicago, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, and several officers within the Chicago Police Department. Additional attorneys for class include Elizabeth A. Homsy of the Law Office of Elizabeth A. Homsy, Sheila Bedi of the MacArthur Justice Center Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Brendan Shiller, Chris Bergin, Tia Haywood of Shiller Preyar, LLC. and Joey Mogul of the People’s Law Office.

What Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s Got Wrong on the Chicago Gang Database

What Superintendent Eddie Johnson Got Wrong on the Chicago Gang Database

Yesterday Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he has a plan to fix the Chicago Gang Database listing out a number of reforms that he said would fix the problems.

But “fixing” the database does not sufficiently address many of the harms caused by the gang database, including: increased criminal sentences, denial of bonds not requiring cash payment, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, and being targeted by immigration enforcement.

Here are 4 things that the Superintendent got wrong during his interview:

  • Superintendent Johnson’s plan to “tweak” the gang database would not have prevented the raid that occured at Wilmer Catalan Ramirez’s home in the Spring of 2017. Under Superintendent Johnson’s plan, Wilmer’s information would still have been shared with federal immigration agents, and he still would have been one of many people being targeted by ICE as part of a series of ‘gang operations.’ This  proposed “tweaking” by the head of the Chicago Police Department does nothing to address the fact that Chicagoans’ information is being shared with federal agencies and other law enforcement agencies every single day.


  • Superintendent’ Johnson’s plan does not apply to other law enforcement agencies, who can interpret and use the shared information at their discretion. Previously In Springfield, for example, contrary to federal law, local police officers who conducted criminal record checks of individuals applying for housing with the Springfield Housing Authority were reportedly also providing Housing Authority officials with information that included the suspected gang affiliations of applicants. It is not yet clear exactly if or how information on alleged gang affiliation is shared with potential employers in Chicago or Chicago Housing Authority.(1)


  • Superintendent Johnson claimed that the police department relies on tracking a person’s gang status to solve crime, but according to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Policing in Chicago Research Group “Tracked and Targeted” report, “While gangs are often blamed for gun violence in Chicago, 67.5% of the people identified as ‘gang affiliated’ on the SSL (Strategic Subject List) had no documented arrests for violent offenses or unlawful use of a weapon.” Again, raising the question of how exactly the use of the database by the Chicago Police Department helps in reducing gun violence and solve crime.


  • Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson claimed “we [CPD] recognize that some people may be misidentified.” The reality is that we do not know how many people are misidentified, as there has been no transparency, no notification process, and no checks and balances, and instead several cases of people who have suffered harsh consequences after being misidentified. In addition, the problem is broad — information obtained through a series of FOIA requests illustrate that the Chicago Police Department has been maintaining and mining information of over 128,000 people they have labeled as gang affiliated.

The Campaign to End the Chicago Gang Database is an open-source campaign by community, legal, research, and policy-organizations to expose and repair the harm of the gang database. Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), and Mijente have been leading a local campaign urging the city of Chicago expand what it means to be a “Sanctuary City” to protect immigrants and US born people of color, particularly those who are targeted by local police. Exposing and eliminating the gang database is a the top of the agenda. Find out more at:

(1)  UIC Policing in Chicago Research Group, “Tracked and Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Datbase”, page 10.

City of Chicago Under Review by OIG for Use of Gang Database


March 22, 2018

The investigation comes after more than a year of campaigning for Chicago to be a real ‘Sanctuary’ for its residents by, amongst other demands, eliminating the Gang Database.

Chicago, IL – Today Inspector General Joseph M. Ferguson announced that the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General will begin a review into the City of Chicago’s Gang Database. The review comes after a year-long campaign exposing the impact of the Gang Database on U.S.-born and immigrant communities of color.

The campaign included the case of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, an immigrant facing deportation because of his erroneous inclusion in the database, and the comprehensive report, Tracked & Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Database, detailing how the Chicago Police Department makes use of the city’s database to police and profile high numbers of black and brown Chicagoans.

“The decision of the Office of Inspector General to review the City of Chicago for the use of the Gang Database confirms what our communities have been saying for months: That the Chicago Police Department has a dangerous tool they use to criminalize communities of color,” said Janae Bonsu, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and principal author of the Report. “These practices have devastating effects on our communities, from decreasing job opportunities, to increasing risk of deportation. The database needs to be eliminated and we will continue to work to make sure that the City has policies that prioritize the safety of our communities instead of policing and incarceration,” she concluded.

The coalition of organizations calls on the Mayor of Chicago and the City Council to take action to protect its residents and put a moratorium on the sharing of information in the Gang Database with other agencies and stop adding names to the list, while the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation takes place.

“We welcome the review from the OIG. At the same time, our communities are in crisis and the City of Chicago has a responsibility to do what it can to keep us safe. Every day the Trump administration is sending immigration agents to target our families and neighbors. The Gang Database is literally a list that ICE uses to justify these attacks, and the City of Chicago has a responsibility to take action now,” stated Rosi Carrasco, member of Organized Communities Against Deportation, and undocumented organizer against the gang database.

According to an analysis of the Strategic Subject List, early 65,000 people in the Chicago area are gang affiliated.  74.5% of people listed as “gang affiliated” are Black, 21.4% are Latinx, 60.7% are less than 30 years old, and 96.9% are male. The campaign to end the Chicago Gang Database, has worked for the last year to research and expose the database, including releasing the Tracked & Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Database, report, and advocating with the City of Chicago to end the practice of tagging individuals as potential gang members.


Sign the petition demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council
Eliminate the Gang Database!  

New Report on Gang Database Details Harms to Chicago Residents

February 06, 2017

Contact: Janae Bonsu, 917-439-1876, BYP100
Tania Unzueta, 773-387-3186, Mijente

Report released today shows how the Chicago gang database decreases job opportunities for Black and Latino youth, increases levels of policing in communities of color, and puts city’s immigrants at risk for deportation.

Read the full report here

Chicago, IL — A new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Policing in Chicago Research Group, Tracked and Targeted: Early Findings on Chicago’s Gang Database, provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on the Chicago Gang Database and the harms that it causes Black and Latinx communities in Chicago.

“The report makes clear why communities of color in Chicago are upset about the gang database. The CPD overwhelmingly targets Black and Latinx youth for inclusion in the database,” says Andy Clarno, director of the Policing in Chicago Research Group that conducted the research. “And, as the report shows, federal law enforcement agencies such as ICE and the FBI have access to this information, putting immigrants on the list at heightened risk for deportation. People on the database are also subject to police harassment as well as more severe bail, bond and sentencing decisions,” he concluded.

Janae Bonsu, the lead author of the report, and organizer with the advocacy group Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) adds, “This report shows that CPD’s  targeted surveillance of Black and Latinx people in Chicago is not only steeped in inaccuracies, but is likely unconstitutional and has real implications for people’s lives. But there’s still information that we don’t know and the City needs to be fully transparent about their policies and practices of this state-sanctioned profiling, and accountable for its adverse effects.”

The report includes information on:

  • The Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) increasing emphasis on “data-driven” policing

  • The ways that gang affiliation is documented and recorded by the CPD;

  • CPD policies regarding gangs in Chicago;

  • Demographic information on the race and gender of people labeled “gang affiliated”

  • The ways that the CPD shares information with federal law enforcement agencies, including DHS and the FBI;

  • Harms caused by the gang database to communities of color;

  • The consequences for U.S. born and immigrant Chicagoans for being labeled as gang members;

  • The campaign organizing against the gang database in Chicago; and

  • Recommendations to address the issues named in the report.

The report has been sent to Chicago Aldermen and other elected officials as part of a city-wide campaign to end the Chicago Gang Database. There are more than 128,000 people on the Chicago Gang Database.  A large majority of the list (95%) is Black and Latinx, disproportionately affecting communities of color. As this report highlights, approximately 11% of Chicago’s total Black population, 4% of the Latino population, and 0.6 %of the white population are in the gang database.


The Campaign to Expand Sanctuary is a cross-issue interorganizational collaboration to defy, defend, and expand what it means for Chicago to be a Sanctuary City. The campaign pushes for the City to strengthen its protections for immigrants and refugees and address criminalization and police violence against Black people and communities of color. The campaign is anchored by Black Youth Project 100, Mijente, and Organized Communities Against Deportations. Read more at


[12.6.17] After a settlement was reached between the City of Chicago and Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, organizers ask when the City review entire Gang Database process.

Chicago – Today Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez and his family announced that the City of Chicago has admitted error in including him in the “Gang Database,” a mistake which led Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s door during a nation-wide operation targeting suspected gang members.

As of the afternoon of December 5th, a letter has been attached to Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s record in the Chicago Police Department’s Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) System, which states that there is no proof in the database, and that he does not fit the definition of a gang member under state statute, including being “a person who actually and in fact belongs to a gang” (740 ILCS 147/10).

Mr. Catalan-Ramirez has been in immigration detention since March of this year and fighting his deportation in court. Although the City’s letter clears him of the gang allegations and has no objections to his relief, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has refused to release him.

“I am thankful for the letter that admits their mistake, but my family is still suffering the consequences” stated Celene Adame, Mr. Catalan Ramirez’s partner and mother of his two children. “If Wilmer’s name had not been on the Database, to begin with, immigration agents would not have raided our home, and we could be spending Christmas together,” she said. Ms. Adame has been a strong advocate against Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’s detention and the Chicago Gang Database.

“Unfortunately once our community members are in the hands of immigration agents, we’re not sure whether we’ll get them back. Although we are glad to see that the City is willing to admit their mistake, it’s too little too late,” stated Xanat Sobrevilla, an organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD). “The City of Chicago needs to admit that there are systematic problems with the entire Gang Database, and as a start, stop putting names into this list, review its content, create avenues for people to seek their removal from the list, and work with our communities to find real ways to keep our neighborhood safe that do not rely on criminalization and policing,” she concluded.

The admission comes after organizers involved in the Campaign to Expand Sanctuary in Chicago published an analysis of Chicago’s Gang Database, showing that 96% of the nearly 65,000 people identified as potential gang members are Black or Latinx. Regarding that data, Janae Bonsu, the Policy Director of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and one of the students leading the research, stated: “The data shows that the Chicago Gang Database is a target list of Black and Brown people who will be the victims of immigration raids, of incarceration and criminalization, and further policing.”

Press release via OCAD

Chicago Gang Database Targets Black and Latino Men [Infographics]

[12/4/17] An analysis of the Strategic Subject List reveals that 96% of the people identified as suspected gang members by the Chicago Police Department are Black and Latinx.

(Chicago, Illinois) – In a recent analysis of the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Subject List (SSL), a  tool used by the Chicago Police Departmentto predict who will be involved in gun violence, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) found that amongst those labeled as potential gang members 75% are Black and 21% are Latinos.

“The data shows that the Chicago Gang Database is a target list of Black and Brown people who will be the victims of immigration raids, of incarceration and criminalization, and further policing,” stated Janae Bonsu, the Policy Director of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and one of the students leading the research.

The research, under the direction of UIC Professor Andy Clarno, also revealed that there are 64,948  people in the Chicago area that are suspected to be gang affiliated. Out of the 64,948 people listed as having a gang affiliation, and 41.6% are Black males under 30. In addition, 67.5% have never been arrested for violent offenses or unlawful use of a weapon, and 20.9%  have never been arrested for violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics. That means more than 13,500 people on the CPD gang database have never been arrested for the three principal activities that the CPD considers gang-related.

Being labeled as a suspected gang member has serious consequences for immigrant and U.S.-born, Black and Latino residents of Chicago. For immigrants, including Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, being on the gang database could mean being targeted for an immigration raid or deportation, as the lawsuit against the City of Chicago by Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez has highlighted. For U.S.-born Black and Latinx people, it could mean being disqualified from getting a job, being denied bond or given higher bonds in local courts, and increased criminal sentences.

“Having a list for immigration enforcement and police to target does not live up to the promise of a city that calls itself a ‘Sanctuary,’” stated Tania Unzueta, Policy Director of Mijente and one of the organizers against the Chicago Gang Database. “We urge City Council and the Mayor to eliminate this list and work on solutions for our communities that invest in resources and real solutions to reduce violence and invest in our neighborhoods” she concluded.

The release of this data coincides with the publication of another studyrelating to the other CPD list containing information on people identified as potential gang members, the Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis Reporting (CLEAR), which breaks down in a similar pattern, with 94% of the list comprised of Black and Latinx Chicagoans. 

In January 2017, BYP100, OCAD, and Mijente, launched a campaign to re-define what it means for Chicago to be a “Sanctuary City” to push forward community initiatives and municipal policies that increase community safety, specifically addressing the criminalization of U.S.-born and immigrant Black and Latinx people. In addition to eliminating the Chicago Gang Database, the campaign includes the removal of the carve-outs from Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which exclude certain immigrants from protections from deportation provided by the city – including people in the Chicago Gang Database.

Chicago Gang Database: Facts and Figures

Policing in Chicago Research Group at the University of Illinois at Chicago
December 2017

In May 2017, the Chicago Police Department released a redacted version of its Strategic Subjects List (SSL) – a tool used by CPD to predict who will be involved in gun violence.  Each person receives a score of 1 to 500 based on individual arrest and victimization records as well as networks of known and suspected associates, with higher scores supposedly indicating a greater likelihood of involvement in gun violence.

The SSL includes a column indicating whether an individual is “gang affiliated.” Because the CPD does not publish information about its gang database, the SSL provides the most accurate available information about the CPD’s gang database.

Overall, nearly 400,000 people are on the SSL. 52% of people on the list are Black, 25% are Latinx, 45% are less than 30 years old, and 76% are male (Note: CPD uses binary gender codes). 285,000 people have scores greater than 250 – indicating that they are considered priority targets for the CPD. Yet 162,000 of these priority targets (57%) have not been arrested for the four crimes included in the SSL: violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, narcotics, or domestic violence.

  • 56% of Black men in Chicago ages 20-29 have an SSL score;
  • 46% of Black men and boys in Chicago ages 10-29 have an SSL score;
  • 73% of Black men and boys in West Garfield Park ages 10-29 have an SSL score.

Below is the breakdown of SSL scores for Black men under 30 in 13 neighborhoods with high arrest rates:

CCA # Name Arrest N census Area racial
SSL black
men <30
26 WEST GARFIELD PARK high 10 Black 72.9
40 WASHINGTON PARK high 8 Black 37.9
67 WEST ENGLEWOOD high 20 Black 49.2
69 GREATER GRAND CROSSING high 15 Black 45.0
25 AUSTIN high 24 Black 42.5
68 ENGLEWOOD high 14 Black 53.4
27 EAST GARFIELD PARK high 19 Black 47.1
29 NORTH LAWNDALE high 24 Black 48.3
33 NEAR SOUTH SIDE high 3 Mixed/Black 24.3
23 HUMBOLDT PARK high 17 Mixed/Hispanic 51.9
38 GRAND BOULEVARD high 20 Black 27.1

* These areas actually have more black men =<30 with SSL than census reported total number of black men age 10-34 (census reports age 30-34 as a chunk).

According to the SSL, nearly 65,000 people in the Chicago area are gang affiliated.  74.5% of people listed as “gang affiliated” are Black, 21.4% are Latinx, 60.7% are less than 30 years old, and 96.9% are male.  

Out of the 64,948 people listed as having a gang affiliation:

  • 72.7% are Black males. 1.8% are Black females;
  • 20.4% are Latinx males, 1% are Latinx females;
  • 41.6% are Black males under 30, and 14.4% are Latino males under 30;
  • 67.5% have never been arrested for a violent offense or unlawful use of a weapon;
  • 20.9% have never been arrested for a violent offense, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics

While gangs are often blamed for gun violence in Chicago, 67.5% of the people identified as “gang affiliated” on the SSL have never been arrested for violent offenses or unlawful use of a weapon. This raises important questions about how more than 43,000 people ended up on the CPD gang database. In fact, the CPD recently acknowledged that gang membership cannot predict participation in gun violence and therefore dropped gang affiliation from the current version of the SSL algorithm.

In addition, 20.9% of alleged gang members have never been arrested for violent offenses, unlawful use of a weapon, or narcotics. That means more than 13,500 people on the CPD gang database have never been arrested for the three principal activities that the CPD considers gang-related.

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Policing in Chicago Research Group is a workshop that brings faculty and students at UIC into conversation with community organizations in Chicago. Led by Dr. Andy Clarno, the research group is exploring the ways that advanced data analysis and coordination between local and federal law enforcement agencies have transformed policing in Chicago.