Police charge 17 after breaking up West Side drug market

- Chicago Police shut down an open-air drug market in the Austin neighborhood on Friday, though the conspirators thought they had outsmarted police by moving the operation half a block west to avoid a Police Operation Disruption camera.

Sixteen of the 17 gang members charged in the operation face criminal drug conspiracy charges following the conclusion of the Narcotics and Gang Investigation Section's "Operation H&L Blues" investigation, according to a release from police. A juvenile is charged with delivery of a controlled substance, and investigators will seek the seizure of a vehicle and two houses used by the criminal conspiracy.

The three-month long undercover investigation began on Jan. 17 after community residents complained that drug sales were taking place less than two blocks from San Miguel School, Sweet Clover Park, Temple of Spiritual Truth Church and Mt. Pilgrim Church, the release said. The investigation began in the area of Huron Street and Leamington Avenue, but later expanded to include 700 N. Laramie Ave., the release said.

Near the end of the investigation, officers made several arrests at the target location and a search warrant was conducted in the 600 block of North Laramie, prompting gang members to begin making drug sales from inside a car, the release said.

Officers conducted 22 undercover controlled narcotic purchases, with 11.6 grams of heroin purchased, 3.4 grams of heroin seized and $751 recovered, the release said.

Of the 17 individuals charged, 11 have been arrested, the release said. Still wanted for drug conspiracy are Brandon Davidson, 22; Ricky Lewis, 27; Elmer Singleton, 28; James Jackson, 25; and Bakari Williams, 27, along with the 15-year-old wanted for delivery.