The Effect of Gangs in There Are No Children Here
Throughout There Are No Children Here, a continuous, powerful tension always lurks in the background. The gangs that are rampant in the housing projects of Chicago cause this tension. In the Henry Horner Homes, according to Kotlowitz, one person is beaten, shot, or stabbed due to gangs every three days. In one week during the author's study of the projects, police confiscated 22 guns and 330 grams of cocaine in Horner alone (Kotlowitz 32).
For the children of the projects, the pressure to join a gang never waivers. Quick cash and protection are hard forces to resist in a world of poverty and violence. However, the children's role in these gangs is inferior to that of the leaders. At first, the concept of joining is quite attractive. According to Lafeyette, one of the two brothers profiled in the book, " 'When you first join you think it's good. They'll buy you what you want' " (31). However, " 'You have to do anything they tell you to do. If they tell you to kill somebody, you have to do that' " (31).
What Lafeyette refers to is frighteningly true. In the inner city, gangs often recruit young children to do their dirty work. Shortly after joining, a fourteen-year-old friend of Lafayette's allegedly shoots and kills an older man in an alley half a block north of Lafayette's building (31).
Acording to Kotlowitz, life in the Henry Horner Homes is controlled to a great extent by gangs, particularly the Conservative Vice Lords. Residents so fear and respect the Vice Lords' control that they refuse to call 911 (34). Snitching can get a resident killed. Even though the Chicago Police Department installed a hot-line number and promise confidentiality, residents called the number only 21 times in all of 1986 (35).
The fear is bolstered by the gangs' vast arsenal, which includes easy access to pistols, Uzis, and even grenades. Kotlowitz says that some of the members are very efficient at the technique of torture. Some members are "enforcers," young men whose sole purpose is to maim and kill (34).
As horrible as gangs are, gang members themselves believe that they are beneficial to inner-city society. A former Gangster Disciple, for example, maintains that gang life taught him a lot: "I grew up without a father and I turned to my Disciple brothaz for love. They knew exactly how to treat a brotha and were always there for me, through thick and thin" (Douglas 162).
Even though gangs provide a sense of support, the "values" instilled in members are horribly dangerous to society. Murders and drive-by shottings go unpunished more often than not in areas like the Henry Horner Homes. Gangs have become powerful enough that high-ranking members who are forced to face the law are protected by high-priced attorneys and investigators (163).
A former Disciple explains a typical way of handling the death of a fellow...