By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Daily Republican
Detective Mike Ball addressed the issue of Drug Enforcement in Belvidere during Session 7 of the Belvidere Police Citizen’s Academy.


Drug Operations and Gangs were the topics presented to the group during Session 7 of the Belvidere Citizen’s Police Academy. Detective Mike Ball began sharing information on drug operations in Belvidere and Boone.

Det. Ball has been with the BPD for 18 years. During that time, he worked for three years with the Sheriff’s Dept. at the jail. When the Boone County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Belvidere Police Dept. formed the METRO Narcotics Unit in 2015, Det. Ball was there.

He explained how law enforcement is seeking out the low level street level and midlevel dealers and searching all the way up the line to felony level and narcotic suppliers to stop the flow of narcotics into the area. METRO depends on patrol officers to provide intelligence about drug dealers because the patrol officers are constantly out on the street and are able to observe drug related behaviors.

Other information conduits include local, state, and federal leads pointing to Boone County; citizen complaints about strange behavior, occurrences, and events they observe; cooperating witnesses who are working off charges or for cash payment; and other counties with leads.

The detectives then go to work setting up surveillance; gathering background information and intelligence about the target; cultivating informants; and collecting evidence. They are then prepared to arrest the target, seize their assets, and try to flip the target to get information leading to accomplices and suppliers.

The detectives watch for crimes related to drugs and supporting the habit of drug addicts. These can include drug sales; retail and auto theft; robbery; burglary; identity theft and check fraud; forgeries and deceptive practices; prescription thefts and fraud; battery; domestic battery; prostitution; prescription theft; and false police reports to commit insurance fraud.

Det. Ball told us that when people hold an open house in preparation to selling their home, visitors might come in for the event and rifle through the medicine cabinet(s) looking for drugs to steal.

Court cases might take from two to six months to come to trial. During that time, the detectives are continuing to collect evidence to support their case against the suspect. Judges that live in the community do not want drugs in their area, and take it personally, so they are hard on drugs. Felony warrants need to be approved by the State’s Attorney so detectives are advised as to what, exactly, the attorney needs/wants to have in the way of evidence to obtain the warrant and a conviction.

A drug is, by definition, any substance that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, or absorbed, causes a chemical change in the human body. Illegal substances which fit this description are: cannabis/marijuana, cocaine/crack, heroin, opiates, and fentanyl, diverted prescriptions, methamphetamines, inhalants, synthetics/bath salts/K2/Spice, hallucinogens/LSD/mushrooms.

“With cannabinoids, we are seeing more gummies, cookies, and brownies,” said Ball.

Drug related violent crimes occur most often as dealers try to protect their turf. These can include: battery, domestic battery, firearm/weapon offenses, drive by shootings, kidnapping (not so much around here), home invasions, and homicide.

The most used drug-of-choice can vary. For a while it was heroin, then cocaine, then back to heroin. Heroin is highly addictive and one of the most rapidly acting drugs available. The human brain is hard-wired to seek things that provide an endorphin rush to the brain. These things can be exercise, thrills, love, or sexual excitement. The body becomes used to that level of pleasure in the brain and any amount of time without it becomes agonizing. Nearly all the people who use heroin used at least three other drugs as well. People who drink alcohol are twice as likely to become addicted to heroin. People who use marijuana are three times more likely to become hooked on heroin, and cocaine users are five times more likely to become addicted to heroin. The brain/body becomes ‘acclimated’ to a level of drugs and requires more to reach the same high they are used to.

Some signs of heroin addiction are: constant lying and secrecy and missing spoons, missing money/jewelry/valuables.

Chicago is a big hub for drugs, most of which come from Mexico. Heroin can originate there or be routed through Mexico from Iran, the Golden Triangle, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, Columbia, or elsewhere.

Heroin is often being cut by using fentanyl (common name Demerol), which is a general anesthetic. It is more potent than morphine and is generally used, in very precise medicinal dosages, for medical purposes for cancer and other illnesses. If the amount of fentanyl used to cut heroin is incorrectly calculated, users can easily OD and die. Detectives need to use hazmat suits and oxygen masks when handling heroin as evidence. They only handle this evidence with a partner to watch them. Inhaling fentanyl can drop the innocent as fast as the guilty. The partner keeps on eye on them and if the detective drops, his/her partner gets there fast with a dose of Nalaxone to revive them. Nalaxone reverses opiate overdose effects and is the best chance at sustaining life during an overdose. It does not cure addiction. It is only to be administered by EMS/Law Enforcement.

In 2014, deaths due to heroin in Boone and surrounding counties were:

Boone – 1; Cook – 321; DeKalb – 2; McHenry – 17; Ogle – 4; Winnebago – 41.

In 2016, deaths due to heroin in Boone and surrounding counties were:

Boone – 2; Cook – 521; DeKalb – 5; McHenry – 24; Ogle – 4; Winnebago – 54.

Detective Ball concluded with a list of solutions to this increasing drug problem are: community support; family stability; Crimestoppers; prison; treatment; education; support of law enforcement; and drug court.

Det. Ball was followed by Officer Steve Jones who had spoken on Traffic Enforcement during an earlier session of the Citizen’s Police Academy. Officer Jones talked of Gangs in the area, past and present. He told us that present day gangs originated in Chicago with early 20th century gangsters. There are over 3 million gang members around the world with over one million in the United States alone. They are operated like multimillion-dollar corporations. Each member pays dues and while they have various source of illegal income, drugs is their number one money maker. Gangs are making sure that members go to school and a number of them become lawyers, accountants, and businessmen.

Gangs, by definition, are an organized group with a recognized leader and three or more members whose acts are criminal or are a threat to the community.

294 gang members have been documented as being in the Belvidere area as of Sept. 23, 2014. Some of them have been passing through the county, some have been caught…

For complete article, pick up the March 28 Belvidere Daily Republican.

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