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Gangster Disciples: Nation's Largest Gang-Run Drug Enterprise



The Gangster Disciples operate a sophisticated retail drug network worth $100 million a year that stretches into 35 states according to a special report on the Gangster Disciples (GD) in the Christian Science Monitor (Ann Scott Tyson, "How Nation's Largest Gang Runs its Drug Enterprise," Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 1996, p. 1).

"The Gangster Disciples are one of if not the largest and most successful gang in the history of the United States," claims James Morgan, special agent in charge of the DEA in Chicago (emphasis in the original). The 30,000-strong gang is "incredibly well-disciplined and trained," he said. US Attorney James Burns told President Clinton during a May briefing that the GD have "a very sophisticated battle plan and a very sophisticated organization."

According to this report, the organization and battle plan were created by GD chief, Larry "King" Hoover. Modeled after Chicago's Italian Mafia, the top-down organization has always emphasized discipline, respect and hierarchy. At the top is the "chairman" (Hoover) and two "boards of directors," one controls street operations and the other controls 5,000 to 10,000 imprisoned gang members. Under the directors are about 15 "governors" who oversee up to 1,500 members each in specific territories. These territories are subdivided between "regents" and "coordinators" who distribute drugs, oversee operations, manage security forces and collect profits and dues called "street taxes."

At the bottom of the organization are "enforcers" and "shorties." Enforcers mete out fines and "violations"- punishments ranging from beatings to death for members who break gang rules. Shorties execute drug deals and guard gang territory. The gang lures young recruits from poor and jobless communities with the promise of easy cash ($50 to $200 a day) and bigger reponsibilities like working "security" shifts with powerful handguns.

Hoover has drafted rules for the members. They include prohibition from using addictive drugs, stealing from or showing disrespect to other members, engaging in homosexual rape and being a "bad sport." Exercise and cleanliness are also required. "It was very strict. You had to have total respect," says Tommy, a veteran GD member.

As crack cocaine gained popularity in Chicago in the late 1980's, the GD organized the lucrative drug trade, augmenting its earlier goals of guarding and expanding gang turf against rival gangs. The gang now buys cocaine in 100- to 200-kilogram shipments of drugs from Colombian cartels.

Sales in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago have reached $1 million a week. The business is so lucrative that when one "crew" is arrested, replacements appear within hours or even minutes. "You've got folks literally waiting in the wings to sell drugs," says police Commander Ronald Evans about Englewood.

A joint US and local law-enforcement investigation is trying to dismantle the GD. In March, 10 members were convicted on drug-conspiracy charges and 26 others, including Hoover, await trial in October. The crackdown on GD leadership has fueled internal strife as members struggle for power. More than a dozen murders and scores of shootings have plagued the gang since January.