Chicago Drug Sting Gets 205 Arrests


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 drug-saturated neighborhoods.

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 said Sunday.

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.

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