ZION, Ill. — Law enforcement officials in northern Illinois’ Lake County are focusing on heroin arrests and education after a major uptick in overdose deaths believed to be linked to a higher purity form of the drug.
ZION, Ill. — Law enforcement officials in northern Illinois’ Lake County are focusing on heroin arrests and education after a major uptick in overdose deaths believed to be linked to a higher purity form of the drug. On Wednesday, the Lake County metropolitan enforcement group raided the two-story home of a suspected heroin dealer in a neighborhood where dozens of children played outside in this community of 25,000 located 40 miles north of Chicago. "We want to take as much heroin off the streets as possible," said Larry Lindenman, director of the enforcement group, which includes officers from area police departments. "If this suspect is responsible for killing people, we’re going to pursue that as far as possible." This year, 20 people have died of heroin overdoses in Lake County, compared with about 20 overall last year, according to Lake County coroner Richard Keller. The deaths have been mostly men, many in their late teens and early 20s, a younger contingent than in years past, Keller said. Authorities are still investigating the exact source of the drug and cause of the increased overdose deaths. Some, including Lindenman, say the heroin is linked to Mexican drug cartels. The Lake County deaths have also caught the attention of federal officials. Both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Drug Intelligence Center are investigating. "We view this development with concern and are monitoring anecdotal reporting to assess a possible trend," said Charles Miller, a spokesman for the drug intelligence center. U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk has proposed legislation to give agencies more resources to investigate drug trafficking in connection with the suburban deaths. A month-long investigation led to the home search in Zion. Undercover agents purchased a higher-purity heroin from the home three times before the raid, Lindenman said. The agents paid about $80 per half gram. Officers took two men into custody from the house, but no one had been charged as of Wednesday evening. Authorities searching the house with a canine unit said a small amount of cannabis was found, and at least 100 syringes were strewn about furniture. But authorities had not yet found any heroin. At least two children were also found at the house, and a baby stroller sat a few feet from the home’s back door. The search warrant is part of a continuing investigation and the agency is also revamping drug education efforts with area police departments, Lindenman said. In Buffalo Grove, police plan to address high school students in the coming weeks, particularly after the recent heroin overdose death of a 20-year-old Buffalo Grove man. "If one kid dies from an overdose, it’s too much," Lindenman said. ______ In photo: Officers with the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group execute a search warrant in Zion, Ill., Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at the home of an alleged heroin dealer. The alleged dealer is taken into custody by police. Lake County has seen a spike in heroin overdose deaths this year. Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.