Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Turf


Woodlawn Boy Bandits, 1907
“Turf” is the city's physical space, overlaid by the symbolic and practical claims of its users and residents. For example, early in the twentieth century, several largely Irish enclaves existed on the city's South and Southwest Sides, even as the South Side Black Belt was taking shape and the West Side Jewish ghetto emerged. It is probably due to this residential patterning that youth gangs began to protect local turf, that is, physically intimidate outsiders who ventured onto their home ground. In the contemporary city, some gangs continue to defend turf, but to regulate the marketing of illegal products. Politicians also seek to protect or expand their turf in the neighborhoods occupied by constituents.

City of Chicago, Department of City Planning. Historic City: The Settlement of Chicago. 1976.
Thrasher, Frederic M. The Gang. 1927.
Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi. “The Gang in the Community.” In Gangs in America, ed. C. Ronald Huff, 1996.