ABC7 rides along as cops make drug arrests

February 10, 2012 3:38:28 PM PST
The new police initiative to fight crime in Chicago focuses on two high-crime neighborhoods.

One of them is the Harrison Police District on the West Side. ABC7's Paul Meincke went along Thursday with police as they rounded up suspected gang members and drug dealers in the area.

The Harrison Police District has historically been at or near the top of the city's list for drug dealing and murders. The idea is if you can pinch the former, you'll lessen the latter.

"If you run across any of the targets not in custody, they're fair game," said Commander Jim O'Grady, Chicago Police Narcotics.

On Thursday morning, officers with the police department's narcotics division got set for a round-up. After weeks of undercover buys and surveillance, they have a set of targets - most of them Traveling Vice Lords - all of them charged with being part of a drug-dealing conspiracy.

"All of them have extensive records, double digit arrests at least," said O'Grady.

The round-up is part of what's called the 7-11 initiative, an effort to reduce the murder rate in the 11th - or Harrison - District, and the 7th - Englewood which together account for nearly a fourth of Chicago's murders.

ABC7 headed to the intersection of Karlov and Maypole with police.

On the sidewalk there were spray-painted messages - rest in peace Twon and Lil Mark, RIP King Dave. Each met a violent death within the past year, according to one resident who says drug dealing there has subsided.

"I get home at 5, 6 o'clock, it used to be in the early morning there'd be drugs," said resident Adolph Leggin. "But there ain't no drugs anymore ... not on this corner."

Perhaps not, but Thursday one of the targets was. Deandre Walker, who police say is out on parole, was awakened, cuffed, and charged with being part of the drug conspiracy.

Roughly a dozen arrests have been made in the round-up. Another half dozen to go.

"Maybe in the past we'd make an arrest or make a series of arrests. Then we'd leave and go to other locations and no one would pick up the ball. We'd have a vacuum," said O'Grady.

The strategy now is the narcotics team does its thing, then increased numbers of patrol officers saturate the area, and then faith-based and social service groups move in.

"Community involvement is the key," said Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward. "You can have all the social services and pastors, but it you have individual who live in the area who are not involved in it, it won't be successful."

Ervin believes that the plan will work with the right kind of attention. So too does the commander of the Narcotics division.