Almost every day in Chicago, Illinois there is a deadly shooting that can be directly linked to gang violence and the constant fight over territory where they can sell drugs.
“We know from years of working the streets … that much of the gang-related shootings, are drug related,” Jack Riley, who heads up the Chicago division of the Drug Enforcement Administration told CBS.
According to The National Drug Intelligence Center in its Drug Market Analysis 2011, gangs controlled drug distribution in the high intensity drug trafficking areas of Chicago.
If that doesn’t paint a vivid enough picture according to the DEA 70 percent of the drugs in Chicago is connected to the drug cartels in Mexico.
“All nationalities, all ages … come and buy the drugs out of this community,” said 58-year-old David Muhammad. He lives across the street from the Sun Rise Baptist Church on Chicago’s west side.
“… the whole block, the intersection, sitting on the church steps. All of that was used for drug activity,” he told CBS.
There is roughly 70,000 gang members in the Chicago area, and according to Jack Riley who heads the DEA’s Chicago office they are going to war for mainly one thing, drugs.
“We’re over some of the biggest interstates in the country here in addition to the trucking and obviously the rail and that’s what makes this area so important to traffickers,” Riley said.
He also believes without a doubt that there is a connection between the murder rate in Chicago and the drug wars.
“Sometimes I would call the police and they wouldn’t even come.
“It was like the wild, wild west,” said Muhammad.
He decided that he had had enough of the violence and drug deals in his neighborhood. Muhammad, a Muslim, took a stand.
“It’s a Baptist church. But in Islam we’re taught to protect all institutions of God. So it was like a slap in my face for them to deal drugs right out of the door of the Church,” he told CBS.
For over a year Muhammad video tapped the drug deals and gang activity near his home in an attempt to curb the frequency of illegal activity that was happening.
However, he didn’t stop there, Muhammad published the videos on his YouTube channel.
While what he did could have put his life in danger, he succeeded in cleaning up his neighborhood.
Muhammad isn’t the only one who has an idea of how to help the violence and drug problem that plagues Illinois’ streets.
Naperville Police Department is planning on implementing policies that go further than simply catching the drug dealers by helping addicts get the help they need.
Police Chief Bob Marshall said the Police Department is gathering resources to implement a diversion program aimed at getting treatment for addicts and other users of illicit and potentially deadly drugs.
The program will be similar to the one implemented in Gloucester, Mass last June. According to Marshall this program will launch in January.
This will tackle two well-known problems at once, the prominence of drug dealers and the addicts themselves.
Taking aim at the demand, by helping the addicts get the drug treatment that they need will, in theory, bring down the prices of the drugs so selling them will have less of an upside and more of a risk.
Naperville’s program will not just focus on street drugs but prescription medications as well. The public safety community has set up drop boxes for medications in the Police Department lobby and the fire stations. Over 1,000 pounds worth of pills have been collected there in past year.
“I think there (are) a lot of studies showing the benefits of treatment over just straight-up arrest and incarceration approaches for helping people’s recovery,” said Dr. David Lott medical director of addiction services at Linden Oaks Hospital.
While not ever street will have a Muhammad and not ever police department will be like Naperville’s, it’s a starting point for the progress that needs to be made.