Department of Falsehoods and Incomplete References | Letters | Chicago Reader

Department of Falsehoods and Incomplete References 

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To the editors:

Dan Cohen's article, "Our Gang," in the Reader, March 4th, is not complete or accurate in regard to statements attributed to or about me. Cohen, a student at the time, and his professor contacted me July 22, 1986--20 months ago. He never checked statements with me.

His reference to my comments about Philadelphia CIN are incomplete. While definition change or reporting procedures on gangs did occur, the evidence is strong that gang problems have nevertheless substantially declined and Philadelphia CIN, community groups and agencies may have had significant responsibility for it. We are not sure.

Cohen also states that I criticized Roberto Rivera for "not hiring active gang members." I never advocated or suggested this to Rivera or anyone else. I am against this practice. Cohen's statement is false.

Thank you for publishing these corrections to your article.

Irving Spergel

Professor, University of Chicago

Dan Cohen replies:

Dr. Spergel's criticism that I failed to check his statements is accurate, I'm afraid. However, all of the statements quoted in the article were tape-recorded, and all of his paraphrased statements were corroborated on tape.

Still, 20 months is a long time to go without checking with someone, and I feel obliged to address his concern. Dr. Spergel's quotations might have seen the light of day a great deal sooner, but the Reader asked me to rewrite the article several times and sometimes let it languish for months between rewrites. Each of these rewrites forced me to reinterview my sources in the program itself. If I did not get back to Dr. Spergel, it was because most of his points were still accurate as far as I could tell from interviewing the CIN staff.

What's more, none of his criticisms of the article is purely factual. His point about Philadelphia's CIN being a qualified success is well-taken; yet he does not dispute the article's major point that Philadelphia, by redefining its gang problem during the first year of its program, has made it difficult to gauge the program's success.

Nor is his contention that he never criticized Rivera for "not hiring active gang members" a clear-cut case of factual error. I did not mean to imply that Spergel wanted Rivera to hire gang members who were still involved in shooting their rivals. However, he did tell me he'd like to see CIN use "the older kids who were trying to get out of the gang." These people could certainly be considered "active" gang members. Moreover, I was basing my statement on what Rivera told me, not merely what I'd heard from Dr. Spergel.

In conclusion, I'd like to thank Dr. Spergel for helping to clarify some points in the article.

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