After a year of tumultuous internal issues, the Schaumburg Police Department has launched a new special unit to proactively address street crime involving drugs and gangs.
But Police Chief James Lamkin is quick to point out that the new Special Operations Tactical Unit is distinct from the Special Investigations Bureau disbanded in 2013 after three of its undercover officers were arrested on drug conspiracy charges.
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"We're very clear that they're not a drug unit," Lamkin said of the new division. "They're a bridge between investigations and patrol. They're filling a focused role on gangs and drugs and other activities as well."
The members of the unit are not undercover, but wear modified uniforms clearly identifying them as police officers. Much of their work on the street is done in unmarked vehicles.
Another clear distinction from the Special Investigations Bureau is that the tactical unit's jurisdiction is Schaumburg and only Schaumburg, Lamkin said. Its officers won't have the Special Investigations Bureau's authority to pursue leads across the region.
Lamkin believes the new approach already is proving to be effective. In its first two months of operation, the unit has made 55 misdemeanor and felony arrests and issued more than 350 traffic citations or warnings to motorists.
The 55 arrests include 25 misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession, seven felony charges for delivery of marijuana and four felony charges for possession of heroin.
Additionally, the unit's officers have seized $6,000 in cash, 726 grams of marijuana, 90 grams of hash oil and 6 grams of heroin.
Unlike patrol officers who are almost constantly kept busy on calls, members of the tactical unit can follow up on long-running citizen complaints by keeping a watch on particular places or houses where suspicious activity is taking place.
Lamkin added that the vehicle code is another useful tool to these officers as violations can provide probable cause to make traffic stops in suspicious situations.
Lamkin concedes that the same focus wasn't being given to these areas of crime during the rebuilding months in between the elimination of the Special Investigations Bureau and creation of the new tactical unit. But patrol officers were still responding to both calls and direct observation of suspicious activity in that time.
Sgt. John Nebl said that every suburban community has drug issues, but it's often difficult to quantify whether activity is up, down or steady over time.
As for gang activity, though, the problem is much less pronounced than 10 to 15 years ago, using drive-by shootings as a measure, Nebl said. At that time, such shootings were relatively common occurrences while today they're extremely rare.
Lamkin said he plans to measure the effectiveness of the tactical unit through its arrests and accomplishments on a quarterly basis, but doesn't foresee any imminent changes to its size. While able to share that the unit has two unmarked vehicles, Lamkin thought it counterproductive to say exactly how many officers are in the unit.
But Lamkin said he wants residents and the business community to know the department is refocused on these issues and has officers able to respond to whatever should arise.