JOLIET – The supply of heroin in Chicago continues to pose a challenge for law enforcement in Will County to crack down on drug dealers and curb their supply.
Will County Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Boers, with the Sheriff’s Gang Suppression Unit, said that most of the heroin sold or possessed in the county still is coming from the west and southwest sides of Chicago.
“As soon as we arrest one [dealer], another one steps up. It’s just a revolving door for us,” Boers said.
Through the years, police have arrested dealers who travel to Chicago and return with heroin to sell.
It’s a problem that Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow highlighted at a recent summit on the county’s overall efforts to reduce the number of heroin and opioid fatal overdoses, which reached their highest point in 2016 with 77 overdose deaths.
At the summit held April 21, Glasgow suggested more cooperative efforts with law enforcement in northern Illinois to arrest dealers in Chicago. He said he’s spoken with Chicago police about potential cooperation with law enforcement in the collar counties to assist with narcotics enforcement.
“Certainly, we’re going to get aggressive and explore those options,” Glasgow said.
Several law enforcement officials in the county agree that curbing the sale of heroin and arresting dealers is important to reducing heroin overdoses, a problem that’s also being resolved with preventative measures and treatment, such as the county’s drug court.
The Chicago Police Department did not return messages seeking comment.
Michael Weber, director of the Joliet Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad, said the agency saw an increase in overdose deaths while the number of heroin seizures were low, which he said was because MANS was shorthanded in staffing.
MANS is a multijurisdictional agency that partners with other law enforcement in Will and Grundy counties.
In 2014, the county had 35 overdose deaths and 15,975 grams of heroin were seized by MANS.
In 2015, the number of overdose deaths increased to 53 and only about 677 grams of heroin were seized by MANS.
Weber said the Chicago area has always been a distribution hub for heroin. People either come from Cook County to sell heroin or addicts and dealers go to the city to purchase heroin there and try to sell in Will County.
“They’re getting it from different sources. They don’t know what’s mixed in it,” Weber said.
In Braidwood, which has seen numerous arrests for heroin sales, police chief Nick Ficarello has said the police believe most of the heroin that comes to the village is from Chicago. In 2014, three people were arrested for bringing heroin to undercover drug agents.
Weber said that they would drive to Chicago to purchase heroin and bring it back to distribute in Will and Grundy counties.
Glasgow said the county has seen an increase in dealers sent to prison. In 2007, 10 heroin dealers were sent to prison and that increased to 50 in 2012, he said. Law enforcement from the county are going “above and beyond” to make heroin difficult to sell, he said.
“That doesn’t stop a 40-minute drive north, where there are countless corners where you can buy heroin,” Glasgow said.
Boers said he knows police in Chicago are fully concentrated on reducing heroin and have done a lot of work making arrests like law enforcement in Will County.
“It’s just a battle,” he said.