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Gray Man Theory: Encountering Gangs

For the past 100 years, Chicago's near West Suburbs has maintained a reputation of being tough (back then, a greaser town) - starting with Al Capone calling it home.

Growing up, the suburbs of Berwyn and Cicero were a hotbed of gang activity - even under the governing hand of the mafia. Today, it still bears a reputation for gang activity and rampant crime.

Gangs have evolved the 40 years since my experiences - when I had the first gun pointed at my face and a switchblade held to my neck at 13. Nowadays, you'll less likely face anyone in a fist fight. Minors are now the muscle with a gun. They are 2 primary reasons for this - first, lenient legal consequences for minors and second, the younger members have to earn their stripes. Even if they do time, they're usually commuted with a lesser sentence. These days, your first and primary threats are the youngest ones in the group.

This will sound harsh, but if it's between you and a 13-year-old with a gun, don't hesitate to act with deadly force. Most of the recent wars in third world countries are fought against kids who are barely 15. Somalia, Middle East, the Golden Triangle in Myanmar - it makes no difference - they are taught from a young age to kill. This is a reality. Even 13-year-olds in Russia know how to disassemble an AK-47 when their American contemporaries are experiencing separation anxiety when severed from social media. Introduced early, I had the first gun pointed at my face at 12 and a switchblade held up to my neck at 13.

Retired Cicero Police Officer, 'Beef' Kosenesky noted that gangs are well organized.

During the riots between May 31st to June 14th, some gangs came together to limit incursions by rioters coming from Chicago's West Side - also called the 'Island'.

It goes without saying that gangs are hyper-territorial. Whether for selling drugs or other illegal activity within its boundaries - it can be assured that their organization will trump any defense a hastily formed militia will present to any threat. So in any 3 conditions, if you have any chance of encountering a gang, this needs to be paramount in any planning for movement within their controlled areas.

The following tips can be applied to all 3 conditions of Normal, Heightened, and Collapse.

Bear in mind that while the prevalence of protection against gang activity is measured by the capacity of local police forces to limit crime, in a grid-down Collapsed condition, gangs and other organized crime entities such as drug cartels will have a faster recovery time. This means that criminal elements that are free to conduct themselves with impunity will establish local control faster than the reestablishment of community services.

Here me out. If in the case of an EMP blast detonated at altitude over a major city like Los Angeles, it will knock out anything that is reliant on power - gas pumps, electrical transformers, cell service, etc. Gangs and organized criminals have an organizational infrastructure that is designed to fly under the technological radar that law enforcement needs to fully operate.

This is why it becomes increasingly important to establish contingency plans within communities to form up a defense against such an event. Think Minuteman militias that were activated as British troops advanced into their area.

For those communities who have strict 2nd Amendment laws, you're on your own.

Criminals are insulated by an increasingly liberal agenda that penalizes responsible gun owners. The flawed mentality rests in the belief that community services are invulnerable to collapse. It's the normalcy bias that provides their comfort. Unfortunately, ask those business owners whose stores were burned down in the BLM riots or the looting that happened in Hurricane Katrina before the National Guard was sent to restore order. Conversely, remember the effectiveness of the Rooftop Koreans in the wake of the Rodney King riots.

In this last episode of our series on Gray Man Theory, we'll draw from personal experience along with expert perspectives from 2 police officers who grew up in Cicero and continue to serve and protect their streets.

One of them, (who asked to keep his identity confidential) is approaching retirement after 20 years of community service. With a background in Filipino Martial Arts that spans nearly as long, he offers a defensive perspective in the following scenario.

If approaching a gang head on and you have no avenue beyond the other side of the street to avoid them, it's important to maintain your confidence. Don't look like a victim.

  • Approach at an angle (FMA is all about angles), while protecting your weapon side.

  • Don't look away to avoid notice. Acknowledge each of them - let them know you know they're there.

  • Meeting their look with a challenge will be perceived as disrespect and it will force them to act.

  • Your goal is to get by - not get into it.

  • Make sure your six is clear. If you see the group splinter and a few members fall back, cross the street and be ready to run - they're looking to surround you.

  • Don't think you'll only have to fight one or expect them to fight fair.

  • Watch their hands.

  • Watch their body language and,

  • Monitor their demeanor and their actions to know if they're going to be aggressive

  • Keep an avenue of escape open - don't get trapped.

Retired Cicero PD 'Beef' Kosenesky recommends the following:

  • Avoid the area altogether.

  • Don't travel by yourself.

  • Avoid alleys - regardless of how many people are with you.

    • Incidentally, Beef was with me the night me and another friend got caught between 2 rival gangs in the same alley when we were freshmen together in high school

  • Don't travel after midnight.

  • Most encounters happen because the victim is looking at their phone

  • If you spot the gang well ahead of you, duck into a business nearby

  • The most dangerous member of the gang are usually the youngest ones:

    • As minors, their punishment are usually commuted to lesser sentences

    • The younger ones 'peewee's', are out to prove themselves

In Normal or Heightened conditions, your best bet is (1) avoid it altogether, (2) evade if you have ample time, and (3) engage - last resort - and run. You're not going to Chuck Norris your way through 3-4 guys.

In a Collapsed society where Life Without Rule of Law prevails, it's important that before you venture out, you know the areas where gangs have expanded their reach and exerted greater control.

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