Drug markets drying up in high-crime neighborhoods

February 10, 2012 3:52:09 PM PST
Police say a new crime-fighting initiative in the Harrison and Englewood neighborhoods, two of Chicago's highest crime areas, is showing ''tremendous results.''

In the last month, officers have arrested drug dealers on street corners in the 7th and 11th districts. Drying up the market is step one in the so-called 7-11 Initiative, announced on January 23.

"Back ending the narcotics initiatives is going to pay enormous dividends in the community," Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Department, said.

If officers crack down on the drug market, there are fewer shootings. If there are fewer shootings, there are fewer murders. That's how police hope the dividend chain works, and the very early numbers suggest a trend in that direction.

Since this new initiative began, murders are down 60-percent compared to the same time period a year ago.

"We're beginning to see - beginning -- it's a promise- you don't do anything on four weeks of data, but it is a promise of beginning to turn around a quality of life," Mayor Emanuel said.

Preliminary crime statistics don't often bring together the mayor, police superintendent, his command staff, the state's attorney, two congressman, the ATF,FBI, DEA, and others. It's a signal that a lot of eggs are going into this basket.

"We've got 40 to 60,000 documented gang members in Chicago, which has also become a hub for the Mexican cartels. That's a toxic mix. We will do everything we can are from the street level to the international level to make a difference here. This is a real good way to go at it," Jack Riley, Drug Enforcement Administration- Chicago, said.

With new federal money, the DEA is now adding more squads to collaborate with police in their 7-11 initiative, and more gun crime cases may go to federal court.

If all this works, and crime drops, social service and faith-based groups are to move into the neighborhoods so the bad guys don't return, but that part of this effort is still a work in progress.

"Let's not be so long on law enforcement and short on the other sides of programs and initiatives that will get to the heart of this problem. You can't arrest your way out of this problem," Congressman Bobby Rush, (D) Chicago, said.

Over the years, law enforcement officials have promised crime-fighting strategies and ground-breaking, interagency cooperation. However, it's argued that not much changes. But if this 7-11 initiative does show signs of success, even more eggs will go into the basket, and it'll be a template for what happens city-wide.