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Emanuel: Cops busted 2 West Side drug markets — rest up to residents

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Police Supt. Garry McCarthy together last year.  |  Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy together last year. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 28, 2012 8:10AM

The Chicago Police Department has busted two West Side drug markets — and arrested 45 members of the Traveling Vice Lords and Four Corner Hustlers street gangs — but it won’t mean a thing unless area residents reclaim that turf, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

The Harrison District market allegedly operated by the Four Corner Hustlers was busted as part of a city-federal investigation that resulted in the seizure of $1 million in cash, $1.5 million worth of narcotics and eight firearms.

An international narcotics cartel has been identified as the source of the drugs, according to Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. Thirty-six “gang targets” have been charged. Twenty-eight of them are already in custody.

The Traveling Vice Lords are accused of raking in $7,000 a day by operating a drug market within 1,000 feet of a school near Laramie and Adams in the Austin District.

Undercover narcotics officers allegedly made 20 controlled buys over a two-month period from the market, setting the stage for 17 arrests.

At a news conference at Harding Playlot Park, 3917 W. Division, Emanuel argued that the gang takedowns were an “opportunity” for the community to flex its muscle and take a stand against the gangs killing Chicago’s children.

“The real test isn’t just today. Does the community come outside the church, outside the family room and reclaim those street corners as ours?” the mayor said.

“Nobody gets a pass. None of us. It does not just sit on the Police Department [although] they have a role to play. ... It sits also with our people of faith. Will they only preach on Sunday, or will they get out on the street corner and make sure that everybody involved in their congregation knows that that street corner is a street corner for these kids to play?”

McCarthy added, “If we allow these locations to regress to their previous condition — if we allow people to buy those narcotics and fuel that narcotics market which fosters the violence in our neighborhoods, we’re doomed to failure and we’re just not going to allow that to happen.”

On Jan. 23, McCarthy kicked Englewood District Commander Anthony Carothers upstairs — and replaced him with respected gang enforcement commander Leo Schmitz — as part of a larger plan to stop the bleeding by targeting gangs and drug markets in the two most violent districts.

The idea was to saturate the Englewood and Harrison Districts with resources, put the gangs and drug markets out of business, round up the fugitives and make the clean-up permanent with help from a “network of community, faith-based and government resources.”

The social network, including jobs for troubled youth, is still a work in progress, which could make it difficult to convince gun-shy residents to get involved, said West Side Ald. Michael Chandler (24th).

“People have to get engaged. You can’t just come home from work, see ten young kids on the street corner, fix dinner, sit down, watch TV and cross your legs and don’t say nothing to those kids on the street corner,” Chandler said.

“The gang bangers — they’re out there talking to those young people. They’re telling them they can pay ‘em five bucks an hour to sling dope and telling them they’re their family now. If that’s what they have to listen to and other stakeholders are not even talking to them, that’s a problem.”

Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields credited “great police work by our officers” for the two gang takedowns. But, that doesn’t change the fact that a two-year hiring slowdown has created a manpower shortage that, Shields claims, has reached crisis proportions.

“It’s blowing up out there. It really is. When you see five police officer-involved shootings within six days, it’s obvious the gang-bangers know that we’re outnumbered,” Shields said.

He added, “This is one press conference after another without admitting the fact that we’re in a major manpower crisis. Police officers know it. Citizens of Chicago know it. Neither McCarthy nor Emanuel will dare to admit it. The city budget was balanced at the expense of public safety and now, all Chicagoans are paying the price for it.”

Last week, Emanuel returned from a spring break ski trip with his children and declared his outrage about the bloodbath of violence that claimed the life of a six-year-old playing on her porch in front of her parents and nearly killed a Chicago Police officer.

During the St. Patrick’s Day weekend when the mayor was gone, ten people were killed and dozens more were shot.

Emanuel responded by arguing that Chicago has a “unique problem as it relates to gangs that’s different from other cities.” He demanded a citywide gang strategy — that McCarthy is still finalizing — similar to the one the Chicago Police Department recently used against the Maniac Latin Disciples.

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