(SPRINGFIELD) - During the early morning hours on April 27, 2006, the Illinois State Police executed arrest warrants throughout Illinois as the final strike in “Operation Byrne Drugs.” The statewide detail involved numerous undercover agents assigned to various task forces and was a joint effort designed to deal a significant blow to those in our society who choose to engage in any of the criminal activity associated with illegal drug use. The overall operation included undercover drug purchases by operatives assigned to task forces in the various regions of Illinois.
In all, Illinois has nine Metropolitan Enforcement Groups (MEG), comprised of officers from state police, county and local police, and 14 Illinois State Police sponsored drug task forces. These multi-jurisdictional law enforcement units were created by state statute and focus on the investigation of illicit drugs, guns and gangs throughout Illinois. Three other states; Colorado, Hawaii, and Kentucky participated in the precedent setting operation.
“The operation was an important part of what we do to stop the sale of illegal drugs in our state,” said Director Larry Trent. “We will remain diligent in our efforts to get drug dealers off of the streets so that we can provide safer communities for all of our citizens.” The statewide operation yielded the following results:
- 327 arrests
- 424 criminal charges filed
- 253 marijuana plants and an additional 106 pounds of processed marijuana
- 1/4 pound of crack cocaine
- 2 pounds of powder cocaine
- 1/4 pound of heroin
- 19 ecstasy pills
- 298 grams of LSD
- 493 grams of psilocybin mushrooms
- 3 grams of meth, $90,936 in cash
- 4 guns and 9 vehicles
In addition, 23 search warrants were executed, 3 parolee compliance checks were conducted, 9 meth labs were discovered and 5 drug endangered children were taken into protective custody. Two indoor marijuana grow operations were discovered, one of which yielded the arrest of a mother, father and son for unlawful manufacture of marijuana, as well as a lead that was developed in a homicide investigation after an arrest was made.
The MEG and drug task forces are supported by federal funding called Byrne Grants. The program was named in honor of a brave New York City Police Officer who was killed by drug dealers. Officer Edward Byrne died instantly after he was shot several times in the head on February 28, 1988, in Queens, New York. Recently this funding has been re-designated and is now referred to as the Byrne/JAG (Justice Assistance Grant) funding. Significant federal funding supports these units in Illinois. Currently these units receive a total of $4,277,577 annually to assist in attacking the illicit drug problem in Illinois.
Director Trent said, “It takes this level of coordination to make an impact in our communities. I am hopeful this type of partnership can be expanded throughout the nation to further impact the illicit drug problem in this county.”
Until the federal government is able to stop the importation of illicit drugs into this country, Illinois requires federally funded assistance at an adequate level to curb illicit drug use in our communities. Recently proposed federal cuts threaten to jeopardize the existence of Illinois’ MEG and drug task forces. Federal funding reductions in 2007 will likely force some of these drug task forces to close. If this were to occur, there would be little deterrent for mid and lower level drug dealers. Byrne/JAG funding could be completely eliminated in 2008 due to proposed cuts by the president.
Currently there are 18 million less drug users in the United States than there were in the 1970's, the height of the illicit drug problem in America. The task force concept has been unquestionably successful and undoubtedly contributed to the reduction in the number of drug users in our country nationwide. The charts below depict this effort in Illinois.
| Total Arrests For All MEG/Task Forces |
| 2001 || 2002 || 2003 || 2004 || 2005 || Total |
| 3,792 || 3,611 || 3,560 || 4,029 || 3,489 || 18,481 |
| Seizures In Pounds For All MEG/Task Forces |
| || 2001 || 2002 || 2003 || 2004 || 2005 || Total |
| Cannabis || 29,004 || 41,653 || 70,704 || 19,292 || 64,903 || 225,556 |
| Cocaine || 3,024 || 1,880 || 1,712 || 2,252 || 3,438 || 12,306 |
| Herion || 44 || 19 || 10 || 45 || 270 || 388 |
| Other || 399 || 3,722 || 622 || 762 || 386 || 5,891 |