Nearly 33,000 juveniles arrested over about the last two decades have been labeled by Chicago police as gang members, according to police data.
The records, released as a result of an open records fight by the Chicago Tribune, provide the first look at gang data kept by the Police Department for those 17 or younger, most of whom were African-Americans and Hispanics from historically violent neighborhoods such as Lawndale and Back of the Yards.
At the time of their arrest, 13 of the juveniles were just 10 years old. About 60 were 11. And more than 300 were 12, a Tribune analysis of the records showed.
Experts cautioned that labeling juveniles as gang members can create a stigma that causes lifelong problems for them yet serves little purpose for police.
The Police Department defends its gang databases, saying they remain an important tool in fighting what drives much of Chicago’s violence. However, the department has promised reforms in how people end up listed as gang members and in how they can remove their names.
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