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updated: 2/24/2011 4:43 PM

Elgin fights gangs on new turf -- in court

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Seventy-nine members of an Elgin gang are being sued by the Kane County state's attorney on behalf of the city of Elgin.

As part of the suit, State's Attorney John Barsanti is asking a judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the defendants from associating with or contacting other gang members.

The suit was filed Sept. 8. Kane County sheriff's deputies, accompanied by Elgin police, started serving the papers last week. As of Monday, about 60 percent of the named defendants had been served, Barsanti said Tuesday. The suit also is against unknown members of the gang.

The names of the defendants will be released this morning. All live in the Kane County portion of Elgin.

"The city of Elgin is extremely excited about this," Barsanti said, describing it as another way Elgin police can fight gangs. "I completely understand its usefulness."

The suit isn't about money. Barsanti hopes to throw a monkey wrench into the workings of the gang. If a judge grants the injunction, gang members risk being arrested on misdemeanor charges if they violate it. A police officer who discovers a known member of the gang hanging out with or communicating with another member could arrest them. And once they're under arrest, other charges might develop, such as if they are carrying a weapon or drugs, Barsanti said.

At minimum, if they are convicted of a criminal misdemeanor, the gang members could be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail.

Barsanti contracted in June 2009 with former Kane County Prosecutor Patrick Crimmins, who headed the now-defunct gang crimes unit, to develop and prosecute the civil case.

It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for Elgin from the gang and defendants who are members, for "all damages, losses, impairments or other harm caused by the actions of the gang." Those damages and losses have not been specified.

The lawsuit refers to eight specific crimes it alleges were committed by members of the gang between 1998 and 2008, including two murders, aggravated batteries with firearms, aggravated unlawful use of weapons by felons, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and aggravated battery and mob action.

Crimes committed by the gang's officers and members have required Elgin and the state to spend money to "triage, treat, transport, investigate, pursue, capture, detain and prosecute" the defendants, "all to the detriment of other opportunities and the citizens of the city of Elgin," the suit states.

Elgin police worked with the state's attorney's office to identify gang leaders, Barsanti said, and they came up with a list of 350 people to be sued. They determined that would be "logistically impossible," Barsanti said. For one thing, there had to be a special task force set up to serve the papers because civil papers have to be served by county deputies. But Elgin police are the ones most familiar with the defendants, he said.

The cities of Aurora and Carpentersville were considered for the suits, but Barsanti favored Elgin over Aurora because of its smaller size, and the volume of Elgin cases prohibited adding Carpentersville.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett has sued gangs four times, including ones operating in Addison and West Chicago. The Boone County state's attorney has also sued a gang.

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