In the city, Chicago police have traditionally picked up off low-level drug dealers and perhaps one or two levels up in the gang. Now, in partnership with the feds, they hope to attack the Mexican cartels importing the drugs.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said police have only scratched the surface of dismantling major drug dealing operations in the past.
"We may have actually fostered violence by the way we do our narcotics enforcement," said McCarthy.
A stretch of west Roosevelt Road was quiet Wednesday. An officer was stationed steps from where police busted a drug market operating directly underneath one of the city's surveillance cameras.
"On a daily basis you've got a lot of drug traffic," said Darren Tillis, North Lawndale business owner. "People coming from out of town, sometimes in cabs, to stop and pick up their drugs."
"Eliminating these markets, rather than leave them there for people to fight over, prevents us from having to go back and do it again while at the same time reducing violence," said McCarthy.
During a news conference Thursday, police laid out the photos of 19 suspects arrested in a series of sweeps next to the guns they allegedly used to regulate their trade.
"Boy, it's a great day for the good guys in Chicago," said Jack Riley, DEA. "Once in a while we really make a difference."
Riley runs the DEA operation in Chicago, a city that he says is America's distribution hub of choice for the Mexican drug cartels.
"You've got the interstates, you've got the rail yards, you've got the trucking industry. Plus you've got arguably the second largest Mexican population outside of Mexico," Riley said.
The conflict and violence, experts say, can erupt when the cartel representatives distribute their drugs to the gangs for sale.
"For years we would make one arrest, make one seizure and never put the organization that was responsible for the source of guns or drugs as a target. Now we're doing that," said Riley.
Will it make a difference? Residents of North Lawndale are skeptical.
"You can close down one and somebody else comes and opens it up, so they got a lot of work to do," said Michael Brown, North Lawndale resident.
Riley posed such a threat to the Mexican drug cartels when he ran the DEA operation on the border in El Paso, Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman reportedly put a bounty on his head.