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Cops seize first property under new tactic

By Annie Sweeney
Chicago Sun-Times

CHICAGO - Two years ago, the Chicago Police Department decided to go after not only drug dealers but the homes they use to ply their illegal trade.
Now the department has taken its first property, a two-flat in the 5200 block of South Artesian where a mid-level dealer was stashing cocaine and marijuana.
The forfeiture was celebrated by gang intelligence officers who said this new tactic is necessary to rid neighborhoods of illegal drugs and the crime that comes with them.
"It's sending a message -- if you are going to be dealing dope, we're going after your houses,'' said Cmdr. Leo Schmitz, head of the gang unit. "The good people in the neighborhoods don't want to live next to them.''
The forfeiture began in October 2006 as a part of Operation Follow the Money, a Chicago Police program first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. Officials said they were going to use tax and money-laundering laws to go after gang members and drug dealers. Properties were also targeted for seizure.
The Artesian seizure started after Chicago Police raided the home and found a kilo of cocaine and also marijuana. The owner, Ignocencio Tapia, 67, is serving an 11-year sentence for drug possession.
Not until late last month was the house finally seized -- a process that requires a court decision and the chance for homeowners to appeal.
Proceeds from the sale of the home -- estimated at $310,000 at the time -- are shared among Chicago Police, the Cook County state's attorney's office and the State Police. The largest chunk -- 65 percent -- goes to Chicago.
"I'm excited about getting the people dealing dope out of the neighborhood,'' Schmitz said. "When you are dealing kilos, you are not in the small time. That's one of the most dangerous types of people to deal with.''

Wire Service
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