By John Biemer, The Chicago Tribune
Undercover police officers posing as drug dealers arrested 205 people
accused of trying to buy narcotics -- the latest in a series of
aggressive tactics aimed this summer at one of the most violent and
The focus of the weekend crackdown was the 3100 block of West 5th
Avenue and 900 block of North Monticello Avenue in the Harrison
District on the West Side.
On Friday police arrested dealers selling narcotics in those areas.
On Saturday more than 50 tactical officers dressed in plain clothes
conducted a "reverse sting" at the same locations, targeting people
trying to buy drugs. Some of them are neighborhood addicts, but
police say many drove to the West Side from other parts of the city,
the suburbs and neighboring states.
"Males, females, blacks, whites," said Sgt. Gregory Jackson, of the
district's gang tactical unit. "There's no rhyme or reason to it."
The sting, dubbed Operation Double Play, netted 205 people who were
charged with trying to buy narcotics, a misdemeanor, and 81 impounded
vehicles, police said.
Jackson said the goal is to dry up the market by making the buyers
wary and forcing the pushers elsewhere. "If you are taking the
would-be buyers off the corner, you're also targeting the would-be
sellers," he said.
One person also was charged with unlawful use of a weapon for
possessing a sawed-off shotgun, police said. In addition to the drug
charges, suspects whose vehicles were impounded will have to pay up
to $650 to recover them.
Two and a half weeks ago, two similar stings in the same police
district that straddles the Eisenhower Expressway between Western and
Cicero Avenues yielded the arrests of 195 customers trying to buy
controlled substances. Police have said they plan to run the sting
operations indefinitely as they try to rein in violence and drug
crime in the Harrison District, which leads Chicago in murders.
The stings are layered on top of a series of police strategies
employed this summer in Harrison. Since July, the department's new
Targeted Response Unit has been saturating the district nightly, with
more than 100 officers trained to deal with gangs. Unit patrols also
have been expanded in the district, and police have installed 11
bulletproof surveillance cameras.
Ald. Michael Chandler (24th), whose ward includes part of the
Harrison District, said some of the tactics appear to be working in
specific areas, such as shutting down open-market drug sales directly
under the cameras. "When you go against organized gangs that work and
plan, we've got to come out of our bag with everything we've got," he
But Chandler also maintains that the solution for the district is to
put more officers on the beat on a permanent basis.
"I notice a greater police presence, but they're still selling dope,
like, two blocks from my house," he said.