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Chicago’s gang crime spreading to the suburbs

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The 23-year-old man was hanging out on a dark street in tiny south suburban Sauk Village. The temperature was 14 degrees — and Cook County Sheriff gang officers suspected he was a dope dealer.

When Sgt. Terry Tabb rolled down his window and asked for identification, the man said, “Why do you care, officer?” Tabb leapt from his car, ran up to the man and asked again. The man refused to produce an ID, and Tabb pushed him onto the hood of the squad car and checked his pockets. Other sheriff’s officers arrived as backup.

The man, who has an aggravated assault arrest on his record, told the officers he was with the “BDs” — the Black Disciples street gang. Asked where he lived, he said he was from Chicago. Officers didn’t find any drugs or weapons and told the man to go.

“I swear to God, I’m not staying around here no more,” the man said, walking away. “I’m going straight back to the hundreds,” he said, meaning the streets on the Far South Side of Chicago.

This is the face of a growing problem for suburbs and unincorporated areas north and south of Chicago. Gang members have been moving to areas they think are less aggressively patrolled than in the city. And once they move in, crime goes up, statistics show.

Sauk Village is a microcosm of the gang migration, sheriff’s officials say. The town of 10,000 — about 12 miles south of Chicago — has seen a six-block area colonized in recent years by at least 31 identified gang members, 15 of whom had previous Chicago addresses before moving to Sauk Village, according to a sheriff’s analysis.

One of the men, Tavares Gunn, was busted by sheriff’s officials in May 2009, when they executed a search warrant on a house where he was living in Sauk Village. He was hit with drug and weapons charges. Gunn gave officers a prior address in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex on the Near North Side of Chicago.

In June 2010, he was arrested again, this time at Cabrini-Green as part of a federal drug investigation. Gunn, a reputed member of the Gangster Disciples, gave police an address in the 1200 block of North Burling — where the last resident of the sprawling Cabrini complex moved out a week ago in the city’s decadelong plan to knock down public-housing high-rises.

The Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples and other gangs from Chicago have been selling drugs and causing trouble in Sauk Village for years, sheriff’s officials say.

Arrests have increased in the last decade, county records show. So have reports of robbery, rape and assault, according to crime figures reported to the FBI. Violent crime in Sauk Village surged from 24 incidents in 1998 to 80 in 2008, the most recent figures available.

In nearby Dolton and Harvey — where sheriff’s authorities said Chicago gangsters also have migrated in recent years — violence also has increased in the last decade, according to the statistics.

At the same time, violent crime in Chicago has fallen over the last 10 years.

On Dec. 7, sheriff’s officers spent about three hours patrolling Sauk Village and making street stops. Even though their legal responsibility is to patrol unincorporated areas, they work in such towns because budget problems have limited the ability of the towns to patrol themselves. On their Dec. 7 rounds, sheriff’s officers didn’t see any members of the 25-officer Sauk Village force patrolling in their own cars.

The Sun-Times attempted to contact the Sauk Village mayor, police chief and several village trustees for comment, but none returned calls.

The rising gang problem isn’t limited to the south suburbs. Cook County Sheriff Sgt. John Olander said his team is dealing with gang problems in unincorporated Maine Township north of Chicago and has worked with police departments in affluent north suburbs including Glenview, Northbrook, Palatine and Hoffman Estates to disrupt gang activity.

“The Black P Stones are on the rise over the last five years in Maine Township,” Olander said. “We know they came from Cabrini, where the buildings were being torn down. They are laying their heads in Maine Township and selling drugs in Wilmette and Evanston.”

Maine Township also has seen an influx of Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples, Olander said, adding, “It is definitely a problem from the city.”

“We always comment, ‘Hey, there’s another one of the project guys,’ ” Olander joked. “The word spread, and they came to these pockets of the suburbs. They tell their members: ‘This is a good spot to hang out. Nobody knows us.’ ”

Kellie O’Connell-Miller, a Chicago Housing Authority spokeswoman, said there’s no evidence that former CHA lease-holders have been causing crime to spike in the suburbs. In Sauk Village, for instance, only one current resident is a “relocatee” from CHA housing, she said.

Still, sheriff’s officials said a handful of the Chicago gang members they recently have arrested in Sauk Village had prior CHA addresses — although they probably weren’t officially listed on a CHA lease.

“Now they’re our problem,” Tabb said.

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