CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police say 34 gang members have been arrested–including the leader–in a crackdown that investigators say has crippled the gang’s narcotics business.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy says the Imperial Insane Vice Lords–also known as the Double Is–operated open air drug markets, selling heroin and cocaine.

“They operated a violent criminal enterprise, and they are responsible for at least three murders,” McCarthy said.

“They’re pretty much crippled,” said Police Organized Crime Chief Nick Roti. “This phase of the investigation took the top shelf of their hierarchy.”

Police say the leader of the gang, Nathaniel Hoskins, spent most of his time in Las Vegas–and ran operations from there.

In fact, he was arrested here as he was boarding a plane for Las Vegas.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the major law enforcement offensive could have even greater implications, as it provides a blueprint for a citywide assault on all violent gangs with cooperation between Chicago Police and the federal government

The operation was carried out with federal strike force funding, which brought together the resources of Chicago Police and federal authorities.

“It’s so important that we have the ability to work closely with the U.S. Attorney to bring in the IRS and find out where resources are going,” said McCarthy.

The Strike Force was formed at the urging of McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was concerned about the lack of help from the feds in the fight against street gangs.

Emanuel’s influence in Washington undoubtedly played a role here. And Wednesday, the seeds planted two years ago, bore real fruit.

The gang’s stronghold was at Thomas and Keystone, where it operated a drug market, officials said. But the investigation targeted several other West Side drug spots and one in Wicker Park near North and Damen, police said.

The drug conspiracy dated to 1996, authorities said.