Police bust 2 West Side drug operations

March 25, 2012 10:00:00 PM PDT
With the help of federal agents, Chicago police say they have made strides against street gangs by busting two drug operations.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy held a news conference Monday morning about gangs in the city. They said police arrested more than 50 members of two West Side gangs. But, they say, the real test is yet to come.

Gun violence is largely driven by street gangs, and narcotics are the lifeblood of those gangs. So the Chicago Police Department's plan is to smother the street sales, arrest the dealers- on tougher federal charges if possible, and then reclaim the neighborhood. While the arrests go far within the two neighborhoods, reclaiming the streets is far from easy.

At Laramie and Adams on the West Side, marked and unmarked squad cars scope out the neighborhood. About a month ago, the area was an open air drug market with, police say, $7,000 a day in sales.

After a series of controlled buys, police made 15 arrests. Now, with their presence, officials hope to send a message: No more drugs here. They did the same with another gang in the Lawndale neighborhood, which led to even more arrests -- some on federal charges.

"What we're doing different, is that in those locations where those markets existed are not going to be returned to those drug dealers. That's why we're standing with the community and clergy to not allow the regression of those spots. It will be a systematic elimination of these markets moving forward," Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

Bust the dealers, shut down the market, and let the uniforms move in. But next comes what could arguably be the most challenging part of the equation.

"The real test isn't just today. Does the community come outside the church, outside the family room and reclaim these streets as ours?" Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

The plea and the plan has been to have the clergy and social service groups lead efforts to reclaim the so-called trouble spots. But there does not yet appear to be a detailed plan for how that might work - apart from the mayor talking about after school programs and an increase in spending for summer jobs for youth. Where will that money come from?

"That's a good question for them to figure out," the Rev. Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church, said.

Most churches and social service agencies are not flush with money to support long-haul neighborhood fixes, so the challenge of reclaiming Laramie and Adams, for instance, remains fixed largely on those who live there.

"The bottom line is it's now or never. It's do or die. If not us, then who?" Acree said.

Press release from Mayor Emanuel's office:

Multiple Weapons Seized with More than $1.6 Million in Illegal Drugs in Lawndale; Gang-Controlled Drug Market Dismantled and Offenders Charged in Austin

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Garry McCarthy and the DEA joined community members Monday to announce the results of two gang and narcotics takedowns aimed at eliminating gangs, drugs and guns on the city's West Side.

"The streets of our City belong to our children and the law-abiding residents of Chicago, not to gangbangers and gangs," said Mayor Emanuel. "Whether in Lawndale or Austin, violence in any part of our city is unacceptable and that is why I've tasked Superintendent McCarthy and First Deputy Al Wysinger to implement a comprehensive strategy that will tackle the unique gang problem Chicago has to make our streets city safer."

As part of a comprehensive strategy, CPD gathers and shares intelligence information throughout the department in a timely fashion in order to prevent retaliatory events from occurring. This includes identifying gang conflicts, new territories and factions, focusing on gang related murders, shootings and general violence related to gang activity.

As a result, "Operation Triple Threat," which targeted 35 of the most violent members of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, culminated in the recovery of more than $1.6 million in narcotics and eight firearms in the City's West Side.

The Chicago Police Narcotics Division also concluded a two-month investigation into an active narcotics location in the Austin (15th) District, charging 15 offenders with drug-related offenses and effectively dismantling a drug market with estimated daily sales of approximately $7,000.

"These take downs are the result of partnerships between the Chicago Police Department, our federal partners and the input of the community," said Superintendent McCarthy. "This is just the beginning - we are going to be addressing gang violence in a new, comprehensive fashion to ensure that Chicago is a safe place to live, work and play for residents of all our communities."

Operation "Triple Threat" focused on violent gang-related activity in the Harrison (11th) District, where the Chicago Police Violence Reduction Initiative announced by Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy last month has been underway to drive down crime in the area. Drug markets identified in Operation "Triple Threat" and now dismantled were associated with street violence occurring in the Harrison District.

Austin (15th) District officers will continue to work closely with residents, business owners, and members of the faith-based community to promote positive results following the dismantled drug market and removal of gang members from the street.