On the West Side, maps show heroin ODs, shootings go hand in hand

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A heroin buyer being taken into custody by police officers on the West Side. | Frank Main / Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Police Department maps released Friday show shootings and ambulance runs for heroin overdoses on the West Side overlap almost exactly — more evidence of how the gang-fueled drug trade is driving violence there.

That came as more than 50 people were arrested Thursday and early Friday in a joint investigation by the police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — the latest in a series of roundups of suspected gang members charged with running drug markets.

The investigation targeted members of the Cali Boy faction of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang, according to Narcotics Lt. Matthew Cline, who said they’ve been responsible for much of the violence on the West Side in the past three years.

Police analysts reviewed 2016 Chicago Fire Department calls for opioid overdoses on the West Side, cases in which paramedics administered a heroin-treatment drug called NARCAN.

“The NARCAN is in areas where we have the largest concentrations of open-air markets,” Cline said.

Those markets have been the main sources of the violence on the West Side, with some of the shootings linked to turf battles among gangs, according to the police. Other shootings have resulted from conflicts over girlfriends or insults over social media.

Gang members congregate around the open-air drug markets, so that’s where their rivals target them, Cline said.

The Cali Boy faction sold drugs near California and Harrison, officials said. Judges, lawyers and police officers often pass that intersection — where hand-to-hand drug deals are easy to spot — on their way to court at 26th and California.

The man authorities identified as the head of the drug operation was Tyrone Hunter, 38, whose barbershop in the 900 block of South Western Avenue was raided as part of the investigation. The shop was used as a “stash house” for drugs, officials said.

Ten guns and more than three kilograms of heroin, two kilograms of methamphetamine and half a kilogram of cocaine were recovered, authorities said.

Salvador Rojas-Santos, 63, of Mexico, was charged with supplying the drugs to the gang faction. A total of 11 people have been charged in federal court and another 40 in state court.

Such raids are intended to drive down shootings on the West Side, including the Harrison District where the Cali Boy operation was targeted. The proximity of West Side drug markets to the Eisenhower Expressway and the L provide easy access for drug buyers. The area along the expressway is sometimes called “the heroin highway.”

Police statistics show a 34 percent decline in shootings in the Harrison District from the beginning of the year through March 12 compared with the same period last year, when shootings skyrocketed there. Murders are down 6 percent in the district this year.

Chicago shootings, heroin overdoses linked by The Watchdogs on Scribd

READ MORE:

THE WATCHDOGS: More fed gun cases, but Chicago trails other cities, March 19, 2017

• Heroin buyers on Chicago’s West Side getting help, not handcuffs, March 11, 2017

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