CHICAGO (CBS) – Drug overdoses on Chicago’s West Side helped police get dozens of alleged gang members and drug traffickers off the streets.
As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, police arrested them in targeted raids on Thursday and Friday.
The investigation has been going on for more than a year. Officers targeted more than 50 members of one gang that CPD believes is behind much of the drug activity and gun violence on the West Side.
“This 14-month case illustrates both of our agencies unrelentingly commitment to target heroin traffickers within the city and to save lives. 600 people died a year in Chicago due to heroin,” said Dennis Wichern, DEA Special Agent in charge of Chicago’s field division.
That is part of the reason the DEA teamed up with CPD to take down a West Side drug ring.
“They continue to use violence to support their drug sales and those drug sales in turn, provide them with money that they use to ultimately buy firearms to protect those drug spots,” said Chief Anthony Riccio, CPD bureau of organized crime.
Comparing maps of ambulance calls for opioid overdoses to maps of where CPD responds to shootings, analysts found the areas to be almost identical. WBBM’s Lisa Fielding reports.
“If you look at the maps. The blue one is the violence. The red one is the fire department’s drug runs. When you look at those two maps, they look almost identical. That just shows you the nexus between drugs and the violence in our city,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Using that data, officers focused on one gang set that CPD said is responsible for much of the violence on the West Side.
“We did not just target the street level guys, the guys that are selling the dope on the streets every day,” Chief Riccio said. “We targeted the upper echelon and wanted to make sure that we actually in fact dismantled this set.”
Officers arrested 38 suspects. Ten of them are facing federal charges.
People living in the area said it is a start, but…
“They have a lot of work ahead of them as far as crime and violence,” said Tonyanika Harris, Lawndale resident. “It might make a difference. It may make a difference, but they still have other issues that they should be tackling.”
“The more we get a handle on the drug issue, we will get a handle on the violence also,” Supt. Johnson said.
The raids were the culmination of an investigation that began in August 2015. CPD is still actively looking for 18 other suspects.