Drug arrests on top of drug arrests | Bleader

Friday, May 4, 2012

Drug arrests on top of drug arrests

Posted By on 05.04.12 at 12:25 PM

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Chicago police officials held another press conference Wednesday afternoon to showcase how they’re getting tough with dealers and gangs since declaring a “ground war” in March—in this case, ten more guys, ranging in age from 18 to 69, were caught possessing or selling small amounts of heroin on the west side.

The police said it was the result of an investigation involving city, county, state, and federal authorities. “The joint efforts of law enforcement partners in this mission have afforded an opportunity for increased safety to thrive in our communities,” Al Wysinger, Chicago’s first deputy police superintendent, said in a written statement.

And there was even more news: police officials also announced that they’d also caught a Mexican citizen driving a truck on the southwest side loaded with bundles of marijuana that would have been worth $11 million.

Still, despite the increasing frequency of these dope-on-the-table announcements—Wednesday’s was the second in four days—it’s not clear that anything new is actually happening on the street. Police have been busting people for drugs on the west side for years.

Consider:

Police have been making drug arrests this year at about the same rate as in years past. As the bar chart above shows, they’re currently on a pace to arrest more than 39,000 people on drug offenses in 2012, according to reported crime data posted on the city’s website. That would be a slight increase over 2011, but just below the totals of the previous four years. From 2008 to 2011, Chicago police averaged about 43,000 drug busts a year. Before last year, Chicago cops hadn’t made fewer than 40,000 drug arrests in any year since 1992.

An increasing portion of drug arrests are for pot. So far this year, nearly 60 percent of all drug busts have been for marijuana offenses. Ten years ago, only 35 percent were. And most pot busts—nine of every ten—have been for low-level possession.

The west side has been the center of Chicago's drug trade—and police roundups—for years. Police beats in Austin, Humboldt Park, East and West Garfield Park, and North Lawndale have led the way in drug arrests so far this year—the same as a decade ago, long before Mayor Rahm Emanuel or police superintendent Garry McCarthy were on the scene.

Incidentally, the drug arrest numbers also show that crack doesn’t appear to be as popular as it once was, as arrests for possessing or dealing it have plummeted from about 15,000 in 2002 to a projected 4,200 this year. On the downside, heroin hasn’t gone anywhere—police continue to make more than 18 heroin busts a day.

You can take a closer look at drug arrest patterns by clicking here for a year-by-year breakdown of specific offenses (possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis, possession of white heroin, etc).

To see where your police beat has ranked year by year, click here. (And go here if you need to figure out what beat you're in.)

Still, the high-profile police work is popular in some communities. Several dozen west Humboldt Park residents applauded Captain Roger Bay at a community policing meeting Thursday night after he discussed a couple of the recent drug busts there. But Bay candidly told them that he doesn’t have enough officers to keep them posted on the corners they’d just cleaned up.

One resident said he’d seen the results of a crackdown at Thomas and Springfield: the area had been free of drug traffic and litter for a month. “The police made people think twice about going there,” he said.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end of the drug trade. “Now they’ve moved down to Springfield and Augusta.”

Bay didn’t disagree, noting that the crew down the block has “probably picked up some business.” Still, he added, “We’re going to keep at it.”

A half hour after the meeting ended, a 21-year-old man was shot on the 3600 block of West Thomas, a few blocks away from the corner of the recent police crackdown.

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