CHICAGO (WLS) -- When eight homes in Milwaukee were raided simultaneously on Tuesday, the men arrested on drug charges all had ties to a Chicago street gang called the Vice Lords, federal authorities said.
FBI officials said the eight men were selling large quantities of heroin in Milwaukee for the Chicago gang.
"It's a very sophisticated group. They are very good," said Jason Soule, FBI supervisory special agent in Milwaukee. "They are very surveillance-conscious. They pay individuals throughout the neighborhood either in cash or heroin to act as lookouts."
Law enforcement sources said they believe the drugs sold in Milwaukee were supplied by gang operatives in Chicago.
This type of operation is not unusual. Federal officials estimate that there are one million gang members operating in locations from hamlets to big cities in the United States, and most of them are connected to a dozen major gangs in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.
"I think it branches out all over the country, to be quite honest," Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday.
Investigators said the gang migration from Chicago, L.A. and New York has provided a gang presence and the drugs, gun trafficking and violence that go along with them in every section of the nation and more than three dozen states.
Illinois, mostly Chicago, has the highest per capita gang population in the nation.
According to gang investigators and the most recent federal figures from several years ago, the Vice Lords headquartered in Chicago and tied to Tuesday's Milwaukee raid have between 30,000-45,000 members in 74 cities in 28 states.
Chicago's Gangster Disciples gang has 25,000-50,000 members in 110 cities and 31 states.
The Latin Kings have 20,000-35,000 members in 15 cities in 5 states.
The Black P. Stone Nation in Chicago could have up to 100,000 members scattered in various cities among 10 states.
Chicago's Latin Disciples have 1,500-2,000 members in Great Lakes states and the Southwestern U.S.
Chicago Gangs, Inc.: street gangs franchise across U.S.