Joint police sting shuts down drug market

When the Insane Black Mafia street gang chose Howard St. as a venue for selling drugs, there was a method to their madness. No one was selling drugs there at the time. With Chicago to the south and Evanston to the north of this busy border street, the area looked like the perfect no-man's-land to ply their wares. 

But it wasn't.

In what became the first high-level collaboration between local and suburban law enforcement agencies this year, the Chicago Police Department teamed up with the Evanston Police Department to shut down the open-air drug market.

On Tuesday, police announced the arrests of 19 members of the Insane Black Mafia as a result of the investigation, dubbed Operation Triple Threat. The gang recently  broke off from the Black P Stones, police said.

"Operation Triple Threat is a classic example of the effort to target violent street crime in its infancy," said Chicago Police Lt. Kevin Navarro.

This tale of two cities began when area residents complained to both police departments of an increase in neighborhood crime.  In the last six months alone the area has suffered 14 aggravated batteries, four armed robberies and one aggravated criminal sexual assault. 

The Evanston Police Department contacted the Chicago Police Department's Narcotics and Gang Investigation Section and notified them that crack cocaine was being sold on the border.  Undercover cops infiltrated the ring as buyers and eventually were able to make contact with mid-level dealers.  Officers of the Evanston Police Department played a supporting role, videotaping drug transactions and identifying subjects.

"A lot of the people involved were known to the Evanston Police Department and not the Chicago Police Department, and vice versa," said Deputy Chief Joe Bellino of the Evanston Police Department.  "I believe that we have signifigantly hampered their ability to be as overt and ruthless as they have been.  It has certainly disrupted their organization."

Police said gang members orchestrated the drug deals so they were initiated on one side of Howard St., and, in an effort to take advantage of jurisdictional technicalities, finished on the other.

Sgt. Landon Wade of the Chicago Police Department, who oversaw the operation, said cooperation between his officers and the Evanston department came as a surprise to gang members.

"They did not count on us having that relationship, building that bridge.  They didn't believe we had the ability to track them."

Also appearing at the press conference was Alderman Bernard L. Stone of the 50th Ward, which includes part of the affected area.  Asked about the state of illegal drug trafficking in the city today, he said "I think it's getting worse."