Chicago Police working with community leaders and residents scored a major victory in the fight against crime Wednesday when they shut down an open-air drug market in Rogers Park and forced a longstanding problem apartment building into the City of Chicago’s Strategic Task Force program.
Eight alleged gang members were taken into custody on Wednesday, and warrants were issued for four others.
Dubbed “Operation Morse Code” the Police Department initiated the undercover investigation in May after community leaders and residents reported increased narcotics activity in alleys and residential streets near the Morse Avenue business district. The drug market area, bounded by Pratt, Greenleaf, Sheridan and Clark was controlled by the Gangster Disciples street gang who peddled mostly crack cocaine.
Police used surveillance cameras and made undercover drug purchases to identify the primary offenders and build a drug conspiracy case against them.
Several undercover drug purchases were made at 1340 W. Morse, which allowed police officials to refer the troubled building into the Strategic Task Force program. The strategic task force targets buildings that have been identified as “drug/gang houses or places of ongoing criminal activity.” The large apartment building is located on the northeast corner of Morse and Glenwood and has been a source of anti-social behavior and suspected criminal activity for some time.
The strategic task force consists of city lawyers, building inspectors and the police who team up to conduct top to bottom inspections of problem buildings. The task force can require building owners to evict problem tenants, engage in criminal background checks of prospective tenants and tenants renewing leases, and provide building security enhancements. In extreme cases, the task force can compel landlords to sell their property.
Police will follow up Wednesday’s arrests with a “reverse sting” operation in the Morse Avenue area. Undercover officers will target those attempting to purchase drugs in the area and confiscate automobiles driven by the customers.
Police will also saturate the area with additional officers in the coming days to prevent other drug dealers from filling the vacuum left by Wednesday’s arrests.
Alderman Joe Moore praised the work of the undercover officers and the 24th District Police who provided invaluable back-up assistance. “The work of these brave officers has made a significant dent in the drug trade in the Morse Avenue area by removing many of hard core drug dealers from the street,” Moore said. “And today’s reverse sting operation will send a powerful message to the drug dealers’ customers that our neighborhood is no longer a safe place to buy illegal drugs,” Moore added.
Moore noted that the video and audio surveillances enable prosecutors to bring drug conspiracy charges against those arrested and will result in longer mandatory sentences. “Ordinarily, an arrest for a sale of a small amount of illegal drugs results in little, if any, jail time,” Moore explained. “By making a case that those arrested were involved in a criminal enterprise, and that this criminal enterprise occurred within 1,000 feet of churches and schools, prosecutors will be able to bring charges that will result in mandatory jail time in the penitentiary for those convicted,” he noted.
For more information, please feel welcome to contact Alderman Joe Moore’s 49th Ward Service Office at 773.338.5796 or at Ward49@CityOfChicago.org.