Police spent hundreds of hours following about a dozen people they suspected of trafficking crack cocaine in DeKalb County.
The investigation started in January with a tip. On separate occasions, police arranged for an informant to buy less than a gram of cocaine from two Chicago men, according to court records and police. From there, they said they tried to unravel a crack supply ring of suspected users, two suspected drug runners and Terry M. Griffin, a 31-year-old Chicago man with suspected gang ties.
Ten DeKalb County residents and one of the suspected drug runners – Antonnio B. Sanders, 31, of Chicago – were arrested Tuesday. Two other local residents were arrested earlier in the investigation. Griffin and Christopher E. Bell, 29, of Chicago, are wanted on multiple felony charges.
The investigation ultimately involved a lot of police time, 15 new felony cases and few seized drugs. Cocaine and crack are not as prevalent in DeKalb County as marijuana, but police leaders hope these arrests are the first in a long series of proactive police efforts targeting hard drugs.
“I’d like the message to be: ‘You come here to do it, we’re going to do everything we can to not only eradicate you, but prosecute you and incarcerate you,’ ” DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said.
Police have seized far more marijuana and marijuana plants than hard drugs in recent years, partially because drugs such as cocaine and heroin are harder to detect, DeKalb County Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said.
“When you walk up to a car, it’s very easy for us to smell marijuana,” Dumdie said. “There’s lots of different ways to ingest cocaine.”
That makes the DeKalb city and county law enforcement’s partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration and K-9 officers more important. Both the sheriff’s department and DeKalb police have an officer affiliated with the DEA; they have broader jurisdiction to arrest people and access to a greater intelligence network.
Meanwhile, the sheriff office’s two drug-sniffing dogs are trained to detect an assortment of narcotics, and DeKalb police hope to add a K-9 officer this year.
Working with the DEA, local officers helped seize 110 pounds of methamphetamine, including a pound in DeKalb; 4.5 pounds of heroin, and more than $500,000 in cash in 2012, Dumdie said. Not all of those drugs were bound for DeKalb County, but the task force disrupted drug traffic throughout the regional supply network, which includes Elgin, Aurora and Chicago, Dumdie said.
“There’s no question in our mind that, yes, we may not always be in the city, but if we take care of things on a regional level, it does have a trickle-down effect,” Dumdie said.
In the recent crack conspiracy cases, once police gathered information through the informant, they mostly spied on people they thought were involved with the drug operation, Dumdie said. The drug conspiracy charges allege that those involved discussed drug deals over the telephone and met in DeKalb County on specific days.
Court records indicate police watched meetings between the suspects in March in the 900 block of North 14th Street, DeKalb; near Oakwood and 14th streets in DeKalb; in the 300 block of North Eighth Street in DeKalb; and in a parking lot in the 1400 block of West Lincoln Highway, DeKalb.
Police said they watched other meetings in March at Greenbrier and Russell roads in DeKalb; in the the 2300 block of Sycamore Road, DeKalb; and in the 1300 block of DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore.
For their efforts, they were able to file low-level felony charges typically punishable by up to three years in prison against 10 people and more serious charges against Bell, Griffin and Sanders. Police will watch how the evidence they gathered fares as the criminal cases progress in DeKalb County court, Dumdie said.
“If we run into problems down the road, we’ll use that as a learning point,” Dumdie said.
For his part, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack declined to comment on the pending cases, or to speak generally on his approach to cases like them.
But Dumdie and DeKalb County Drug Court Coordinator Marilyn Stromborg said prosecutors tend to differentiate between dealers and addicted users.
“If they’ve been out here dealing before and we get them again, they deserve long prison sentences,” Dumdie said. “They had their opportunity to clean up and didn’t.”
But drug court can offer a break for drug users who want to turn their life around, Stromborg said. The specialized court offers defendants reduced sentences in exchange for completing a rigorous program that can include treatment, drug tests, frequent court dates and requirements based on their individual situations.
Many of the local suspects arrested this week are in their 40s or 50s, while the typical drug court applicant is in his or her late 20s, Stromborg said. The typical applicant uses alcohol, marijuana or cocaine – or all three – while crack and heroin use are less common, Stromborg said.
But age and drug use don’t always indicate how well someone will do in the program, Stromborg said.
“It totally depends on the person,” Stromborg said. “We’ve had some hardcore addicts go through fairly fast.”
Arrested on felony drug charges this week were:
• Antonnio B. Sanders, 31, of Chicago
• Christopher J. Stogsdill, 45, of Sycamore
• James B. Phillips, 55, of DeKalb
• Jason Coppens, 38, of DeKalb
• Brian D. Ottenhausen, 40, of DeKalb
• Eldridge D. Moore, 62, of Sycamore
• Terence J. Low, 57, of DeKalb
• Ronald Bannister, 40, of DeKalb
• Christopher K. Riggs, 36, of DeKalb
• Dianatha Hardesty, 50, of DeKalb
• Andrew Burkett, 58, of DeKalb