UPTOWN — An undercover police operation nabbed 15 people who are suspected of taking part in gang and drug activity near an Uptown crime hotspot where eight people were shot last month, officials said.
The arrests happened Thursday. Police said the investigation targeted 19 people and recovered about $4,200 worth of narcotics, mostly crack cocaine and small amounts of marijuana.
Narcotics officers arrested 15 of the 19 people targeted and seized one vehicle, police said in a statement. Charges include possession and delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), whose ward includes a northern portion of Uptown, announced the sting in a newsletter to constituents Friday. He said the operation targeted "the north Uptown area," near Lawrence Avenue and Sheridan Road.
"A number of these individuals are also involved in illegal activity in the Argyle [Street] area near Lawrence and Sheridan," Osterman said.
In a statement Saturday, police said they are still pursuing four more people involved. The majority of the people arrested "have documented affiliations" with a faction of the Gangster Disciples street gang, according to police.
Osterman said the arrests would address ongoing safety problems in the area, "including the recent shootings in front of the J.J. Peppers at Lawrence and Sheridan."
The store sits in a strip mall in known Gangster Disciple gang turf. Loitering and gang activity has been a problem there for years.
A violent June in Uptown left 10 people shot and the community on edge. Eight people were hit in two separate gang-related shootings at the strip mall. The more recent of the two shootings happened at the end of June when shots fired from a four-door sedan struck six people, including an innocent bystander waiting at the westbound No. 81 Lawrence bus stop outside J.J. Peppers.
"Similar to other undercover operations conducted in recent years, this recent sting was sparked by concerns and reports given by community members committed to ending negative activity in our neighborhoods," Osterman said.
The office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th), whose ward includes most of Uptown, announced earlier in the week that lighting in the area had been improved, security cameras linked to 911 had been installed and cameras were added to the alley behind the strip mall in an effort to address safety concerns.
The bus stop outside the J.J. Peppers will be moved east of the strip mall and "new landscaping and fencing is planned to discourage loitering, according to Cappleman's office.