An article by Michelle Keller
in the Chicago Tribune today very factually reported on a police raid and shutdown of an open-air drug market. Fourteen suspects described as gang members were charged with conspiracy and delivery of a controlled substance, according to the article.
Things got a little dicey just before the arrests were finally made:
One undercover officer was held at gunpoint while attempting to buy $500 worth of cocaine during the operation, dubbed "Heat Wave" for the high temperatures recorded when the operation was started in July.
"I was very scared," said the officer, who had previously arranged to buy 10 "jabs" of crack cocaine. The dealers knew he would have several hundred dollars on him, said the officer.
Police then stepped in to make the arrests. The market -- reportedly operated by a gang known as "The Conservative Vice Lords" -- operated near a pre-K-8 school, Keller reported. Sgt. Carlos Mostek told her, "Had any gunfire erupted, the children who were attending school would have been in harm's way."
That's a valid concern. I hope the bust was not done during school hours or anywhere near school hours, because gunfire could certainly have broken out as part of that. I also hope the undercover officer attempted his buy during non-school hours -- his activity also nearly prompted gunfire.
This is a losing situation from beginning to end. Because of prohibition we have this open air markets, staffed by gang members who are willing to shoot at each other -- risking the lives of bystanders in the process -- in order to protect their turf or to capture turf from others and thereby increase their market share. A police raid, while shutting the market down, in the process increased the overall danger in the vicinity, at least for as long as the sting and bust were in process. Will the corner calm down? Perhaps, but the activity may restart even there, and if not it will certainly move to somewhere else. Sometimes these busts lead to more internecine violence as rival operators fight each other for the opportunity to be the new guys on the block. Sometimes the instability even draws in new drugs to the neighborhood that weren't common there before. Legalization, not raids and arrests, is what will clean the mess of the illegal drug trade off the streets.
to send a letter to the editor.
Note: According to gangresearch.net, the Conservative Vice Lords started as a gang but transformed themselves into a community empowerment organization. I don't know enough about this topic to offer an evaluation; I just got the name of the reported gang from the article. If anyone is able to clarify this issue, please post your knowledge here for us. Thanks in advance.