CHICAGO (CBS) — This Mother’s Day, dozens gathered to remember those killed by drugs and to call attention to punish those responsible.
The mothers and loved ones who gathered in Millennium Park called it the “Mother’s Day Rise Up Rally”. They carried pictures of their sons and daughters who have fallen victim to fatal drug overdoses.
They’re calling on police and prosecutors to enforce laws on the books to hold drug dealers accountable.
Theresa Almanza’s 18-year-old stepdaughter went to a party back in 2015. The teen bought ecstasy there and ultimately died of a drug overdose.
Almanza wanted the dealers to pay for the death. They could be charged under a 1989 state law.
Her plea with law enforcement was initially unanswered.
“The Chicago Police Department told me they don’t investigate these cases criminally, that Sydney made a choice and they just were not going to investigate it,” Almanza said.
McHenry County is taking a harder stance.
Patrick Kenneally, McHenry County State’s Attorney, said his office has brought charges on at least 20 cases during the past three years.
“Every single overdose case that happens in McHenry County, we assign a lawyer to work with the police department,” Kenneally said.
In 2017, 80 people died from drug overdoses in McHenry County. Eight dealers faced drug-induced homicide charges.
In 2018, the number of deaths dropped to 51. The number of dealers charged climbed to 15.
But in Chicago, 2,600 people have died from drug overdoses since 2015, including Almanza’s stepdaughter Sydney.
It took 16 months until two people were charged with drug-induced homicide in that case.
In the last four years, hers was the only case where drug dealers faced felony charges.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson says now there’s a commitment to create a task force on the issue.
“I’m confident we’ll be able to model the model that they have out in McHenry County,” Johnson said.
Mothers who gathered on Sunday are hopeful those words will lead to real action.
“Our children, their lives matter too and these cases must be investigated criminally,” Almanza said.