DuPage County state’s attorney sues street gang members
For the third time in eight years, DuPage County’s top prosecutor filed a lawsuit intended to disrupt the operations of an area street gang.
State’s Attorney Joe Birkett filed suit in DuPage County Circuit Court against the Sureños street gang, also known as the Thirteens, which operates in Addison and West Chicago. Birkett filed a similar suit last October against the Latin Kings and in 1999 against the Satan Disciples.
The suit — filed under a 1993 state law targeting gang activity — alleges that members of the gang have engaged in numerous illegal activities since 2002, including aggravated battery, unlawful possession and delivery of controlled substances, and unlawful possession and use of weapons.
Investigators from the state’s attorney’s office and the Addison, West Chicago, Aurora and Naperville police departments served 26 alleged gang members named as defendants in the suit Sept. 9.
“Street gangs must be stopped, period,” Birkett said in a statement. “They have permeated our neighborhoods and schools to the point where no child is immune to their presence. Gangs are constantly on the prowl looking for new members. They use our schools, our parks and even our streets as their recruiting grounds.”
The suit seeks a court order to prevent members of the gang from gathering, appearing together in public or frequenting a West Chicago neighborhood that is a known hangout for its members.
The order would prohibit the named defendants from participating in a number of illegal activities, including drug- and weapons-related crimes. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages to offset the money West Chicago and Addison spend to combat gangs.
West Chicago Deputy Police Chief Bruce Malkin said Birkett’s strategy of targeting gangs through civil action, including the 1999 suit against the Satan Disciples, has been very effective.
“It dismantled their whole operation,” Malkin said. “We’ve virtually had no problems with them since the lawsuit.”
Malkin said he is optimistic the suit against the Surenos will have a similar effect.
“It’s being more proactive,” he said. “We don’t want to wait for them to commit a crime for us to be able to do anything. If we can curtail their actions before they happen, we’re that much more ahead.”
The case has been assigned to DuPage County Circuit Court Judge Bonnie Wheaton.