WOODSTOCK – Shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday, police entered a Woodstock home on Seminary Avenue. A heavy-set man, wanted on felony drug charges, was ushered quietly through the dense fog and into a squad car in what would be the first of more than a dozen drug-related arrests across McHenry County.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, along with officers from Lake in the Hills police, Woodstock police and U.S. Marshals from the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, apprehended 16 of the 20 suspects they intended to arrest during a warrant roundup Thursday.
The majority of arrests were heroin related and involved street-level drug dealers. Of the 16 arrests, 10 individuals were charged with additional crimes, most of which were for paraphernalia possession.
“We’re really happy with that,” said Lt. James Wagner of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, adding that arresting more than 50 percent of the suspects during a roundup is considered a success.
“People who live this lifestyle don’t have regular habits and addresses,” he said.
The arrests were the end result of months-long investigations by local police. Using confidential informants and tips from neighbors, officers spent many hours monitoring and interacting with the drug dealers leading up to Thursday’s arrests.
Thirty-five law enforcement officers split into three teams covering Woodstock, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, and Hebron and McHenry. The Northwest Herald was invited to join the officers during the warrant roundup.
While attempting to arrest a heroin dealer on Rolla Farm Road in Woodstock, officers discovered a marijuana growing operation valued at $30,000, said Sgt. Michael Muraski of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.
Fifty plants in three growing stages were found at the home, and officers found an additional growing location in a cornfield next to the home. The man officers intended to arrest was not there, but another man, who said he did not live at the residence and was just baby-sitting a child, let officers in the home where the marijuana was found.
The marijuana growing operation is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison depending upon prior criminal history, Muraski said.
Many of the people arrested had a long criminal history, mostly involving drugs and theft. The man authorities attempted to arrest on Rolla Farm Road had 11 prior charges involving drugs, theft and obstruction of justice. A woman who lives on Lincoln Avenue in Woodstock had 10 prior charges and was arrested in her car with her child in the back seat. An officer drove the child home to his father while the woman was arrested.
One of the men arrested Thursday on felony drug charges on Hoy Avenue in Woodstock had posted bond and left jail Wednesday night for an unrelated crime. Authorities said he is a known gang member and a registered sex offender.
A 17-year-old was arrested while in class at Great Expectations School in Union. He is charged with dealing hallucinogenic mushrooms.
The names and exact addresses of those arrested were withheld by the sheriff’s office Thursday.
Although a majority of the arrests were heroin related, officers recovered more marijuana than any other narcotic at the suspected felons’ residences. This is not uncommon, said Wagner, because many of the heroin dealers are also users themselves.
“If they’ve got [heroin], they are selling it or using it,” Wagner said. “They’re generally not holding a lot.”
Along with using information from tips and informants, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office has increasingly used social media to monitor suspects. Some drug dealers will post pictures of undercover cars to Instagram as a way of alerting other dealers that police are in the area, Wagner said.
Thursday’s warrant roundup was a success, said McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke, and more arrests are likely to come in the future.
But he acknowledged that arrests are by no means the only tool for curbing heroin use in McHenry County. It takes a community effort involving drug prevention, education and treatment programs, Zinke said.
“We’ve got to help these people,” he said.