While Chief Keef raps about Lamrons, cops make gang Public Enemy No. 1
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter November 7, 2013 7:58PM
The 6400 block of South Normal is the heart of the Lamrons gang territory.
Updated: December 9, 2013 9:12AM
It started with a murder and snide Tweets.
Then, as the conflict heated up, two Chicago gangs started trading even more bullets.
Chicago Police needed to stem the rising tide of violence and quietly made a decision to target a gang with a funny name, but a deadly reputation: the Lamrons.
Chicago cops made them Public Enemy No. 1 in the Englewood police district. After a year of work, Chicago Police are now providing an inside look at how they targeted a gang celebrated by the now-infamous Chicago rapper Chief Keef.
It’s a gang that branched out beyond the typical drug and gun crimes and is making inroads — and big money — in identity theft and counterfeiting.
So far, the results of the police offensive are mixed. Shooting incidents — fatal and nonfatal combined — are way down in the district. Still, murders are up slightly.
The Lamrons, a faction of the Black Disciples, claim territory between the Dan Ryan Expy. and Halsted Street from 59th to 67th. They’re named after a stretch of Normal Avenue — Normal spelled backward is Lamron.
Chicago rapper Chief Keef, whose real name is Keith Cozart, makes songs with lyrics full of references to the faction.
The rapper drew headlines last year when a message posted on his Twitter account mocked the Sept. 4, 2012, murder of rapper Joseph “Lil’ JoJo” Coleman. Lil’ JoJo was affiliated with the Lamrons’ rivals — the Brick Squad faction of the Gangster Disciples.
“A lot of this spiked with the Lil’ JoJo and Chief Keef stuff,” said Nicholas Roti, chief of the department’s Organized Crime Bureau. “They [gangs] started going back and forth with shootings.”
To quell the shootings between the gangs, the department unleashed a multipronged offensive on the Lamrons.
They met gang members face to face in groups and hand-delivered messages to their homes, warning them to put down their guns.
They’ve arrested hundreds of Lamrons for serious offenses and smaller crimes.
Late in 2012, the Organized Crime Bureau busted other members of the gang in a narcotics investigation. And police recently raided houses where Lamrons were allegedly running a lucrative counterfeiting ring.
Since he took office in 2011, police Supt. Garry McCarthy has held entire gangs like the Lamrons accountable for the violent actions of individual members, including the Maniac Latin Disciples and the Spanish Souls.
The department’s onslaught of the Lamrons began with a gang “call-in” on Oct. 4, 2012. Parolees who belong to the Lamrons — as well as parolees in other gangs in Englewood — were summoned to meet with police officials and other community leaders.
Leo Schmitz, deputy chief of the Englewood District, warned the parolees to stop the violence or their whole gang would be held responsible. They also were offered help in getting jobs and going back to school.
“We told them, ‘We want you to be assimilated into society and go to school, but if you go back to the old ways of shooting people we will not stand for it,’ ” Schmitz said.
Schmitz said he stopped individual Lamron members on the street and gave them the same warning. One of his lieutenants even delivered written warnings to members at their homes.
A second call-in was held May 22, Schmitz said.
Since last September, district officers have made more than 250 felony arrests and more than 900 misdemeanor arrests; recovered more than 80 guns, and impounded more than 250 vehicles in the territory claimed by the Lamrons, Schmitz said.
Meanwhile, the Organized Crime Bureau launched a narcotics sting on the Lamrons. Seventeen members of the gang were arrested after they allegedly sold drugs to undercover officers, Roti said.
Then on Sept. 5, the Organized Crime Bureau attacked a large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting operation allegedly run by members of the Lamrons, Roti said. Officers raided three suspected Lamron houses in the 6400 block of South Normal, he said.
Among the items seized were thousands of blanks used to make counterfeit driver’s licenses and credit cards, Roti said. Also confiscated were nine computers, credit card printers and equipment set up to make New York, Illinois and Indiana driver’s licenses, he said.
Police found $65,000 in cash, six guns and merchandise that was allegedly purchased with phony credit cards. The loot included eight large flat-screen TVs and new construction tools.
“We believe the identity-theft ring was a big part of the Lamron enterprise,” Roti said.
Roti said the Lamrons have been “a little quieter” since becoming the department’s top target in Englewood.
Shooting incidents have fallen 23 percent in the district this year through Oct. 27 compared with the same period in 2012, according to the department. They’re down 24 percent compared with the same period of 2011.
Murders, on the other hand, are up 6 percent compared with the same period in 2012. But murders are down 25 percent compared with the same period in 2011, the department says.