COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — While Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez doesn't think it's feasible to arrest all of Chicago's gang members, she said Thursday that police and prosecutors are fighting back with a new weapon.
In its first test — dubbed "Operation 40 Cal" — more than 40 members of the Black Souls street gang "responsible for the reign of terror" on Chicago's West Side have been rounded up.
"It's a game changer," Alvarez said Thursday flanked at the Cook County Courthouse by Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and officials from the FBI. "It's about time we start trying something new."
But Alvarez said Thursday that arresting an entire gang is "not feasible." Instead, the new law allows prosecutors to pin the crimes of the gang as a whole on its leaders in some cases.
Among those in custody, are characters like Cornel "Corn" Dawson, the alleged head of the New Life Black Souls and an open-air drug market in West Garfield Park and gang "princes," Ulysses Polk and Clifton Lewis, who manage gang turf, according to the prosecutors office.
They are charged with crimes connected to the Black Souls' criminal enterprise; murder, witness intimidation, drug trafficking, kidnapping, armed robbery and illegal weapons offenses.
The arrests come a year after the Illinois legislature enacted the state-level version of the federal statute used for decades against the mob and other organized crime rings.
The anti-racketeering act, RICO for short, gives police and prosecutors the power to hold gang leads accountable for the crimes of the criminal organization and establishes harsher sentences.
The Black Souls became the first subject of a RICO investigation several months ago when a 36-year-old man named Claude Snulligan turned up dead.
"He had repeatedly called the police on the Black Souls," Alvarez said, alleging that the gang tried to bribe Snulligan and beat him in an effort to silence him.
Snulligan was shot in the back of the head with a 40-caliber gun on Oct. 20, 2012, outside of a Church's Chicken in the 1600 block of South Drake Avenue.
McCarthy said other gang leaders are going to get the message.
"Where these guys are businessmen, they are going to see that (violent crimes) are bad for business and start changing their culture," he said. "They are going to stop shooting at each other."