Chicago police patrolling Mexican neighborhood Little Village

The Sinaloa Cartel's control over the Chicago drugs market is driving the city's murder rate, says a Bloomberg report, but in reality such a clear-cut link has yet to be established. 

A report by Bloomberg describes how Sinaloa leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has during the last seven years gained control of drug supply and wholesale distribution in the city and a significant part of the Midwest. Around 80 percent of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine going to the Chicago region is Sinaloan, according to the US Drugs Enforcement Administration -- a market worth $3 billion a year. 

Guzman has such control that he is able to set the prices, according to former city gang leader Harold Ward. The wholesale heroin price has doubled in a decade and his stranglehold is sparking increasingly desperate turf wars between the city's local street-selling gangs. Last year Chicago had 506 murders among a population of 2.7 million, the highest per capita rate among the four biggest US cities. According to University of Chicago research, while overall the murder rate has halved since the city's crack epidemic of the 1990s, in certain poor parts of the city there are actually more homicides today than there were then.

Chicago was chosen as a US drugs hub by the Sinaloa because of its key location, said Bloomberg, "where highways and rail lines converge and then fan across the Midwest." Where before Guzman relied on local gang leaders, now he has top-level Sinaloa operatives permanently stationed in Chicago, according to retired detective and Chicago Crime Commission vice-president Art Bilek. Unemployment and poor education has also provided a ready supply of young salesmen. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Warnings about Latin American cartels taking over the United States must always be viewed with a degree of caution, as so many reports of encroachment and spillover violence have now been discredited. Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former Mexican intelligence official told Bloomberg, "It's easier to sell the need for a bump in your budget if you speak about evil Mexicans than if you present a complex web of gangs." Exaggerating the threat in the hopes of budget increases was also described by law enforcement officials across the US interviewed by the Washington Post earlier this year.

While certainly true that the Sinaloa Cartle is operating in Chicago and supplying the market, a direct causal link between the group's presence and methods and the city's murder rate is much less clear.

Investigations

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