A joint narcotics investigation involving police departments in Austin and Cicero has resulted in the arrest of 10 gang members, the seizure of a handgun, and the seizure of an undisclosed quantity of heroin and cocaine, Chicago police announced Monday.

The arrests and seizures all occurred within the vicinity of Roosevelt Road and Austin Boulevard, an area of frequent drug-trafficking controlled by the Traveling Vice Lords street gang, according to police.

The investigation involved the Chicago Police Narcotics Division, 15th District tactical officers and the Cicero Police Department.

During the month-long joint investigation, nicknamed Operation Island, the police carried out a series of controlled drug purchases, all of which occurred within 1,000 feet of a school in the area. A search warrant was executed following surveillance and various other investigative tactics where police identified 12 individuals for arrest. Of the 10 individuals who were apprehended, eight were convicted felons with extensive arrest records, police said.

“Recent incidents of violence, which have impacted the community, can be attributed to the gang and narcotics activity taking place in this area,” according to a statement released by the Chicago Police News Affairs.

Children’s International Academy, a daycare, sits at 5858 W. Roosevelt in neighboring Cicero, about a block away from George Rogers Clark Elementary School, which serves Austin and North Lawndale families. Although police did not disclose the exact location of the arrests, both of these schools fall within a three-block radius of the drug activity.

Cicero Police Supt. Bernard Harrison said that the joint operation between his force and Chicago police is unique. Cicero police, he said, played only a peripheral part in the bust in that they only administered arrest warrant sweeps. Chicago police did the heavy lifting, Harrison said, such as processing suspects and seizing the illegal materials. He nonetheless believes that Monday’s action was a launching pad for future collaboration between the two municipalities.

“Roosevelt Road is a border between Cicero and Austin’s 15th District,” Harrison said. “For years, we’ve been chasing the bad guys back and forth across the street. It does us no good to [continue to do that]. So, we decided that there’s only two ways to do it —eliminate the crime or arrest the people perpetrating the crime. That’s what happened the other day. We’ll continue operations of that nature in the future.”

Monday’s bust is at least the third major policing activity in recent months that’s occurred within the vicinity of the Eisenhower Expressway, also referred to as “Heroin Highway” for its easy access between West Side drug suppliers and their west suburban customers.

In June, a joint operation between local and federal law enforcement entities resulted in the seizure of about cash and drugs near that area. Police netted $140,000, large amounts of heroin and cocaine, and nine firearms in an area just south of I-290 — enclosed by West Roosevelt, West Fillmore, South California and South Kedzie. This, police say, was drug territory controlled by Conservative Vice Lord leader Kenneth Shoulders.

Earlier this month, Chicago police and federal agents arrested more than 30 individuals connected to a drug-trafficking ring controlled by the Gangster Disciples leader, Johnny Herndon. His main territory — the 300 block of South Kilbourn and the 4400 block of West Congress Parkway — is less than a block away from the Eisenhower.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department said that, due to the ongoing nature of Operation Island, the department is limited in how much information it can release on the case. Requests for the amount of narcotics seized and for the identities of the individuals were denied.  

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Michael Romain is founder and editor of TheVillageFreePress.org

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