El Chapo Guzman to keep Public Enemy No. 1 title in Chicago for now; Cartel arrest could impact Chicago heroin trade
February 24, 2014 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Reputed drug kingpin Joaquin ''El Chapo'' Guzman will retain his title as Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1 despite his recent capture in Mexico.
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The Chicago Crime Commission's executive director, Joseph Ways Sr., said in a phone interview Monday the group won't yank the title at least until Guzman is convicted in a U.S. court.
Last year, it affixed the same notorious label to Guzman assigned to Prohibition-era Chicago gangster Al Capone in 1930. Except for Capone, the non-government body hadn't given any crime figure the Public Enemy No. 1 label until Guzman.
Even though there's no indication Guzman ever stepped foot in Chicago, the commission says he was more menacing than Capone because of the narcotics his Sinaloa Cartel supplies.
Mexico hasn't said if it intends to extradite Guzman.Cartel arrest could impact Chicago heroin trade
The arrest of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman could have an impact on the streets of Chicago. There has been an increase in heroin deaths in the Chicago area in recent years. Authorities say El Chapo's drug cartel was responsible for 80 percent of illegal drugs in Chicago.
With so much of Chicago's drug supply coming from Joaquin Guzman's Mexican cartel, his arrest should come as great news to law enforcement officials and treatment facilities. However, many do not believe it is going to have a great impact because the demand continues to grow, especially when it comes to heroin.
In May, Christopher Kingston will celebrate four years of sobriety. The recovering heroin addict began to use the drug at 17.
While the arrest of the Mexican cartel leader that supplies most of the heroin in Chicago is encouraging, Kingston predicts the demand will remain the same on the streets of Chicago.
"I've never stopped buying drugs because a drug dealer wasn't around. When you're an addict you're gonna find drugs no matter what the circumstances," said Kingston.
And law enforcement officials say while the arrest of Guzman may have a short term impact on supply, police say it won't take long for someone else fills in to meet the growing demand for heroin, especially in a market like Chicago.
"We believe we are doing the best job we can, we are out there making cases, making arrests, but the players keep coming back," said Mark Piccoli, DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group.
Experts say the growing heroin problem only became worse once it hit the distribution lines of Mexico. David Cohen knows firsthand. He currently works as the director of clinical services at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center. As a recovering heroin addict, Cohen has witnessed how the drug has become more potent and addictive.
"I've been clean since 1996, and from the 80s to current, it's gone from about 14 percent pure to anywhere between 70-80 percent pure, and a lot of that has been the Mexican cartel," said Cohen.
Cohen says while big arrests like El Chapo's is part of the puzzle, so are advances in treatment.
Many say as long as heroin remains cheap, highly addictive and available, the demand for the drug among 17-25 year olds will continue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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