Chicago’s Former Gang Members Look to Leave Their Tattoos Behind

October 12, 2016


YSVP executive director Eddie Bocanegra weighed in on a Sept. 20 WBEZ story about Adrian Torres, a tattoo artist who performs a life-saving service in his free time ? gang tattoo removal."

WBEZ’s Linda Paul spoke with Eddie Bocanegra, the executive director of the YMCA of Metro Chicago’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative, as part of her recent profile on Chicago tattoo artist Adrian Torres. Listen to the profile here.

Torres performs low-cost gang-tattoo removal twice a month. Tattoos trap former gang members in their neighborhoods long after their allegiance has dissolved; they also present significant employment barriers. Torres credits Eddie with introducing him to the idea while they were both working as violence “interruptors” at CeaseFire.

Chicago used to have a large-scale tattoo removal program sanctioned by the city and staffed by medical personnel, which serviced 50 to 60 people a day. The program faded away despite support from politicians, the public, medical personnel, and funders. Torres hopes to see a resurgence in this program, but until then, he plans to continue with his volunteer tattoo removal services.