Area police discuss ways to combat heroin epidemic
BY BRIAN STANLEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 3, 2012 7:26PM
Lemont Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy brought together law enforcement officials to discuss how to better combat heroin. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: January 15, 2013 4:22PM
Heroin is a big problem in Will County. It’s a big problem in Cook and DuPage counties as well.
While Lemont is the only village in all three, police chiefs in every community are concerned at the rise in use and fatal overdoses over the last few years.
So Lemont Chief Kevin Shaughnessy invited law enforcement from throughout the area to a “Heroin Summit” on Oct. 23 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.
“This is not a run-of-the-mill ailment. This is a deadly epidemic. And like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) comes together to throw everything at it, we have to do the same,” Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow said.
Glasgow’s comments echoed those of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.
Most of the area’s heroin is bought on street corners from street gang members on the South and West sides of Chicago.
“But we are seeing an increase in gang members’ willingness to make deliveries to the suburbs,” Alvarez said. “There’s less fear of rip-offs and police (interference).”
Municipal officers spent time listening to federal agents talk about different resources and operating programs they have and are happy to share.
Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent In Charge Jack Riley said while local police can benefit from intelligence and manpower they couldn’t otherwise afford, simple street arrests provide information that could help the feds fight international cartels when the smaller departments communicate back.
“Mexican drug cartels are in Chicago because it’s a great market,” Riley said. “There’s lots of transportation, you can go east or west (across the country), and there’s a large legitimate Hispanic population they can blend into.”
Riley said cartels have perfected using street gangs as “Amway salesman” to move the product they profit on.
But such organizations have become more of a target. While federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws have attacked organized crime, a state RICO act became law in June and could now apply to street gangs and drug trafficking, Alvarez said.
Penalties for illegal possession of Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are considered gateway drugs to heroin, will increase Jan. 1.
“The devastating impact heroin has on parents, on a community is terrible,” Shaughnessy said. “My neighbor’s problems are my problems. I wanted to bring everyone together because communication is the most essential tool for law enforcement in fighting this.”
Several Will County police chiefs said they discovered new investigative tools from attending the conference and planned to use them within their narcotics cases.