Chicago police continued to strike at the life blood of Austin street gangs over the last month, shutting down four street corner drug operations in or near Austin. Two of the operations conducted by the Narcotics and Gang Intelligence Section (NAGIS)?”Operations Outta Towner and Operation Full Service?”were directed at factions of the dominant Vice Lord street gang.
Last Thursday, police concluded Operation Full Service, a 3-month investigation of an open-air crack and heroin market, centered around a grocery store in the 4900 block of West Ferdinand. Members of the Cicero Insane Vice Lords street gang took in $5,000-$8,000 per day at that site from the sale of crack cocaine and heroin, as well as cannabis.
The operation was initiated after complaints regarding drug sales activity were received by the 15th District CAPS volunteers and the 15th District commander.
One person in custody is a juvenile who was charged with Criminal Drug Conspiracy and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. Three of the adult individuals still being sought on warrants are currently on parole from Illinois prisons. Ricardo Ricks, 32, who is charged with Possession, has eight prior drug-related convictions and was paroled from the Western Illinois Correctional Center last May. Larry Evans, 40, also on parole since last May from the Logan Correctional Center, has four prior drug convictions. He’s been charged with Criminal Drug Conspiracy. Stacy Thomas, 25, is being sought on a warrant for Criminal Drug Conspiracy.
A new style of drug transaction
Two days earlier, on Tuesday, April 5, Chicago police and NAGIS officers broke up a rather innovative heroin operation that they say was a pipeline between the West Side of Chicago and several downstate communities. The 4-month-long “Operation Outta Towner” investigation started last December after Illinois State Police contacted their Chicago counterparts and informed them that one particular name kept coming up in interrogations of over 45 people arrested for drug possession in the LaSalle-Peru and Ottawa areas downstate. That name was “Tony.” What made the operation unique was that “Tony” was never seen, nor, at first, were any drug transactions. The operation had apparently adapted to the success of Chicago police and federal agencies over the past year in closing down many street corner operations throughout the West and South sides.
This operation required buyers to make a phone call to “Tony,” who usually told them to call him when they arrived in the city. He would then direct them to different locations around the Douglass Park area around 15th Street and Sacramento Avenue, where they would wait anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. A runner would then quickly approach the vehicle, make a furtive transaction, and then retreat.
“They weren’t hanging out on the corner,” said Sgt. Dorothy Knudsen of the Narcotics and Gang Intelligence Section. “It was a quick transaction, very deliberate.”
The random, quick nature of the sales transactions made surveillance of the operation a particularly tough challenge for police.
“It’s virtually impossible for district personnel to combat this,” said Knudsen.
“I think possibly this is the new wave,” said Knudsen of the fast, low-exposure drug operation. “The dealers are thinking of ways to overcome street corner surveillance.”
Tony, the cops eventually determined, was actually Daniel Funches. Funches, 28, was apparently a huge fan of the movie Scarface. Arresting officers reportedly found posters of the movie all over the walls in Funches’ apartment.
Funches and his alleged co-conspirators are reputedly members of the Unknown Vice Lords street gang. The 10 people involved in the operation reportedly sold an estimated $25,000 in heroin and crack cocaine each week. Thirteen of 14 targets were arrested Tuesday, and a warrant is out for the 14th, Leo Covington.
Over 120 days of investigation, undercover officers made eight buys and conducted surveillance on a number of buy sights. All told, police seized nearly $20,000 in heroin and more than $3,600 in crack cocaine, plus three handguns, three vehicles, and $6,700 in cash.
Daniel Funches is now in Cook County Jail in lieu of $40,000 bond. His brother, Brian, whose 20th birthday was ruined by arresting officers, is being held in lieu of $35,000 bond.
Two LaSalle County residents were also arrested here in Chicago, Jerry Shan, 21, of Utica, IL was charged with Criminal Drug Conspiracy. Lynette Perkins, 35, of La Salle was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance. In addition, police said, a reverse sting was conducted in LaSalle County by State and local police, rounding up several downstate purchasers.
Two smaller but no less disruptive operations were shuttered in March. In “Operation Stone-Cut,” police went after members of the Black P Stone street gang selling heroin and crack at Chicago and Latrobe Avenues and arrested 11 on Wednesday, March 23, according to Gang and Narcotics Investigations Section Lt. Al Wysinger. Eight others were being sought on arrest warrants, he said.
Unlike the dealers busted in “Operation Outta Towner,” some Austin area dealers have continued to operate out in the open. In “Operation Stone-Cut,” drug dealers could be seen walking back and forth on the sidewalk in the middle of the day while briefly exchanging items with passers-by.
On March 16 a 2-month-long investigation concluded with the arrest of seven people accused of trafficking heroin and crack near Cicero Avenue and Van Buren Street. Five others are being sought.
Police first began investigating the drug spot in January. The operation came to be referred to as “Broken Eagle” because of the eagle logo stamped on some of the tin foil packets sold to undercover officers. The market, said police, grossed at least $2,500 per day. Police made 14 undercover buys, and seized $1,900 in drugs and $1,536 in cash during the investigation.
Among those arrested and charged in Broken Eagle were Kenneth Adkins, 40, a convicted burglar, armed robber and forger, and Rickey Wheatley, 38, who has convictions for violent crimes and drug possessions. Both men were paroled from the Jacksonville Correctional Center last summer.
Austin District Commander Eugene Williams assured the public that following the arrests, gang narcotics trafficking would not resurface in those areas.
Police would set up sting operations in which officers pose as drug dealers and make arrests as a means of discouraging those who normally come to the area to buy drugs, Williams said.
Additional police squads would be deployed, and Williams said he would request that a police surveillance camera be installed.
As a result of numerous operations that Superintendent Philip Cline has coordinated through the Gang and Narcotics Investigation Section and district gang teams, street crime has decreased in targeted areas, according to Williams. That’s a state of affairs police want to see continue.
Ald. Ed Smith, long an opponent of Chicago Street gangs, decried the social ravages that the drug trade has wrought in his 28th Ward at a press conference detailing Operation Otta Towner.
“[Some] people are getting rich, and the cemeteries are filling up with young people.”
The affluent white suburbanite drug addicts who provide a large percentage of the cash that lures people into the drug trade, said Smith, have grown comfortable coming into West Side neighborhoods to acquire dope.
“They’ve become so relaxed,” said Smith. “They don’t worry about [the danger].”
Smith’s City Council colleague, Ald. Michael Chandler of the 24th Ward, said that will have to stop. Speaking of the buyers who support the crime that plagues the people in his ward, Chandler said coldly, “We want all of them to know, ‘This drug store is closed!'”
Police said they were ready to continue their efforts for as long as is required.
“These type of investigations are going to continue throughout the year,” Narcotics and Gang Investigations Section Deputy Chief John Risley said recently. The Chicago Police Department, he said, planned on having an operation every week.
“It is our purpose to make Chicago the safest big city in the country,” Risley said. “It’s not going to stop. We’re going to be relentless in our efforts.”