The West Suburban Enhanced Drug/Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) police task force has gotten a helping hand from the feds. The Chicago branch of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is now a partner of the suburban police department alliance.
The village of River Grove has also joined WEDGE, a multijurisdictional anti-gang and drug unit that also counts Riverside, North Riverside, Brookfield, Berwyn, Cicero, Oak Park, Forest Park, Elmwood Park and River Forest as members.
“These multijurisdictional operational task force partnerships have never been more important than they are today,” said WEDGE Chairman Thomas Weitzel, who is Riverside’s police chief. “Today, we work with our counterparts at every level of government – local, state, federal, and, in some cases, international. The inclusion of River Grove and ATF in this multiagency task force enhances our ability to gather intelligence and work closely on joint investigations at a local and federal level.”
The WEDGE unit coordinates for special missions, such as the 2009 arrest of a man at a home on East Burlington Street in Riverside being used as a cocaine warehouse for Mexican cartel.
WEDGE officers reported seizing 30 kilos of cocaine and $20,000 in cash during the raid.
“We’re on an assigned schedule but we’re available 24 hours. Anything that’s going on we’re ready to rock,” said Forest Park Police Detective Sgt. Mike Keating, a commander on the WEDGE task force.
New radios also help. The units from different village police forces keep in touch via a special radio frequency assigned by the Cook County Sheriff’s office. With the help of U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds, all WEDGE officers received new radios this year.
“Our beat is from Belmont Avenue to I-55,” said Keating. “It has about 250,000 residents. It’s bigger than Rockford. It was important to have a radio system that works and covers it.”
Partnering with the ATF has other benefits, he said. “The feds have teeth when it comes to charging [suspects].”
“It’s nice to know people on a first name basis if WEDGE has an incident involving a weapon or tracking a weapon, or if someone wants to turn in a cache of weapons,” Keating said.