Wauconda is latest town to join gang task force
Wauconda has become the latest community to join a regional police task force targeting gangs and drug dealers.
The Lake County Gang Task Force formed in July 2015 and consists of representatives from more than 30 law enforcement agencies. Participants include local police departments, the FBI, DEA, IRS and the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency.
Wauconda joined the organization in February, and Detective Tom Robertson is the town's representative, Wauconda Police Chief David Wermes said. Robertson works part time with the task force, so he's able to continue his regular duties in Wauconda, Wermes said.
In exchange for his participation, Wauconda will receive a percentage of asset forfeitures that result from task force investigations, Wermes said. The task force also will provide officers for community events requiring a larger-than-usual police presence for public safety.
"It's like getting 12 additional officers for the price of one," Wermes said.
The Lake County Board will formalize Wauconda's two-year membership with a vote Tuesday. The meeting is set for 9 a.m. at the county government center in Waukegan.
Task force organizers hope pooling resources among a growing number of departments will allow police to combat gang- and drug-related crimes more efficiently.
"Gangs, guns and drugs -- that's the three things we're focusing on," Lake County Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose said.
Other local agencies participating in the task force include the Grayslake, Fox Lake and Lake County Forest Preserve District police departments, Rose said.
"It's very significant that Wauconda has joined," Rose said. "It sends a strong message to everyone that we're here and serious about the addictions to drugs that are affecting Lake County."
According to the sheriff's office, more than 1,100 documented gang members live in Lake County. Of those gangs, 86 percent are based in Chicago, the sheriff's office reported.
Public concern about street gangs in the suburbs has lessened since a peak in the 1990s. That's partially because gang members aren't fighting over turf like they used to, Wermes said.
Instead, many gangs work together to build larger criminal enterprises involving illegal drugs, Wermes said.
"The color green is more important -- money," he said.
The task force meets monthly, focusing on training and tactics that can create consistent approaches to the problems, officials said. Information about suspected criminal activity is shared among members. Membership is free.
Task force investigations have led to some notable arrests in Lake County. Most recently, a Wauconda-area man and his half-brother who police said were heroin dealers were arrested in late February.
Although that criminal operation was based just outside the village, the men sold drugs to Wauconda residents, Wermes said. Their arrests make Wauconda a safer community, he said.
"If people want to get their heroin, they'll have to go someplace else," Wermes said.