Police have arrested 29 people as a result of a fake pawn shop operation that morphed into a narcotics operation, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington announced on March 25.
Cook County Sheriff Dart said, “This is a great example of law enforcement agencies coming together to work as a team.”
Sheriff Dart said Evanston police approached his office, saying there had been an up tick in burglaries in the City, and they wanted to be proactive in making arrests and reconnecting people with their property.
The pawn shop, called Leonard’s Resale Shop, was set up at1618 B Emerson St.
, said Sheriff Dart. “The purpose of the pawn shop was to purchase and recover stolen property,” he said.
During the operation, Sheriff’s police officers posing as pawn shop employees purchased more than 100 items believed to have been stolen, said Sheriff Dart. Police used hidden cameras and a remote video system to monitor the operation. The monitoring system has enabled police to identify potential offenders selling stolen merchandise.
Some stolen items were easy to identify because they were brand new and in original sealed packaging, said Sheriff Dart. In another case, a customer of the pawn shop admitted he stole goods from his place of business. “He was easy,” said the sheriff.
Chief Eddington said police are hopeful that burglary victims will be able to identify additional items purchased at the pawn shop as stolen items and that police will be able to follow up with arrests of persons who sold those items to the pawn shop.
Police often obtain arrests by collecting evidence at a crime scene, such as fingerprints, said Sheriff Dart. The pawn shop operation is another way to obtain evidence against burglars and provide a deterrent to crime. “We are going to be trying a lot of different things to upset their lives,” he said.
Chief Eddington said, “We want to create a seed of doubt in the offender’s mind. ‘Am I fencing this to police? Have I gotten away with this?’ We hope this will create deterrence.”
While police were conducting the pawn shop operation, they discovered a few customers were also involved in street-level drug sales within blocks of the store, said Chief Eddington. Evanston police started a parallel investigation into the drug dealing.
Undercover police made 19 hand-to-hand purchases of small amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and psilocybin mushrooms, said Chief Eddington. During a sweep of targeted offenders, Evanston police arrested 19 people on narcotics violations and another four for unlawful possession of firearms. Fourteen of the persons were from Evanston.
Sheriff Dart and Chief Eddington thanked the Lincolnwood, Niles, Skokie, Wilmette and Waukegan police departments for their work during the investigations as well as the National Insurance Crime Bureau that provided funds to purchase merchandise brought into the pawn shop.
A video featuring all the items will be available for viewing at cookcountysheriff.com.