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"OPERATION DAY SHIFT” TARGETS DEALERS IN THREE SOUTH SUBURBS

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Sunday, March 30, 2008 — A concentrated effort to rid three south suburbs of daytime illegal drug sales has resulted in the arrest of 95 suspects by Cook County Sheriff’s Police and local law enforcement, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Sunday.

“Operation Day Shift” focused on morning and afternoon drug sales in the towns of Chicago Heights, Ford Heights and Hazel Crest. The seven-month, joint undercover investigation that culminated this week targeted street level drug dealers and their associates as well as customers frequenting the areas to purchase drugs.

“We have seen a shift in street level drug sales from the dark of night to the morning and early afternoon, proving that the bad guys are very aware of police efforts to clean up these areas,” Sheriff Dart said.

In the Ford Heights and Chicago Heights areas, drug dealers began tailoring their street sales to earlier daytime hours because they realized the afternoon and evening shifts were typically more heavily staffed with patrol and tactical units. In an attempt to conduct their business without the threat of increased patrols or arrest, the offenders changed their street sale hours to earlier in the day, sometimes beginning as early as 8 a.m.

Throughout the investigation, Sheriff’s Police undercover gang crimes / narcotics officers purchased rock cocaine in amounts ranging from $10 to $30 at a time. In addition to targeting the dealers, officers also executed search warrants at eight locations in Ford Heights in an effort to reduce the flow of drugs on the street and, in one case, made a significant seizure of rock cocaine, not seen before by Sheriff’s officers.

During a February 16, 2008, search warrant of a Ford Heights home, police found 2,400 individually wrapped packages of rock cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $170,000. The home, located at 1432 Greenwood, Ford Heights, was believed to be a major stash house for drugs being sold in the Ford Heights area.

Police videotaped many of the street-level drug transactions that took place during the operation. During a Sunday press conference, Sheriff Dart played footage which showed the savvy and often bold nature of the street level dealers. Those deals included:

1) In Ford Heights, an undercover female officer had $ 20 stolen right out of her hand when she drove up to the 900 block of 15th Street and was approached by a 17-year-old Gary, Indiana man. The undercover officer agreed to pay $20 for one of crack, but when she pulled out the money, the offender reached inside the car, boldly grabbed the money and walked away casually while the officer followed in her car yelling at him.

2) In Hazel Crest, an undercover officer agreed to trade three pair of Nike “Air Force 1" gym shoes for $40 worth of crack cocaine. The deal with offender Michael Garfield occurred outside a local liquor store in August. At the time, the shoes retailed for nearly $140 per pair. Unbeknownst to the offender, however, the gym shoes were counterfeit. And since then, Garfield has been sentenced to time in Stateville Penitentiary on another charge.

3) In Chicago Heights, offender Cue T. Gibson retrieves $20 worth of crack cocaine and hands it to an associate who delivers it to an undercover officer stopped in his vehicle in the middle of the 1600 block of Butler in the middle of the afternoon. Gibson is ultimately taken into custody and an arrest warrant has been issued for the second offender.

4) In Hazel Crest, an undercover officer meets with offender Janathan Fultz and the two men stand outside a liquor store after school and children in school uniforms stream by on their way home. Fultz crosses the street, meets with another offender who spits two cocaine rocks out of his mouth and comes back to our officer who completes the transaction.

“These offenders have exhibited bold behavior right out in the open during busy daytime hours and unfortunately that is often how innocent children and others get caught up in dangerous situations,” Sheriff Dart said. “We will continue to work diligently with our suburban law enforcement partners to keep the streets safe for everyone.”

In Hazel Crest, all the drug purchases made by undercover officers were conducted within 1,000 feet of Warren Palm School and in Ford Heights, a majority of buys were made within 1,000 feet of Medgar Evers School. Offenders charged with those drug sales automatically have their charges increased one criminal class, meaning they face increased jail time if convicted.

Sheriff Dart thanked the Chicago Heights, Ford Heights and Hazel Crest police departments as well as the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for their valuable assistance during this investigation.

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