The heroin problem in west suburban Naperville, and throughout the area, has been well documented, in both numerous newspaper articles and at many community forums held in the city.
Now, the Illinois State Crime Commission is looking to get tough on the growing problem of heroin use here in DuPage County and believes that cash — and lots of it — will be a way to help rein in drug dealers and the spread of addiction.
The Illinois State Crime Commission has taken what it calls an "unprecedented move" of offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone supplying heroin to a juvenile in DuPage County.
"We've seen before that money works," said Jerry Elsner, executive director of the Illinois State Crime Commission. "About 15 years ago there was a woman murdered in Addison who had an unborn baby taken out of her and we put out a $10,000 reward. Within 20 minutes, we got a phone call with information that led to an arrest and a conviction. We want the drug dealers out there to know we have money available and plenty of it."
Elsner said he believes the $1,000 incentive money will convince drug dealers "that the cost of doing business here in DuPage County is too high."
"The problem now for the dealers is that their customer might also be the person who winds up getting them arrested," he said. "With the reward money, the dealers can't be certain they're not selling to someone who might turn around and dial 911 and have them arrested the very next minute. It leaves the dealers very uncertain who they are dealing with."
The heroin problem in DuPage County continues to grow exponentially, Elsner said, which is why the commission is ramping up its efforts.
"The I-88 corridor has become what a lot of us call ‘the heroin highway' as it connects people from Naperville all the way to the west side of Chicago," Elsner said. "We have people who are driving into Chicago's west side and buying this stuff and bringing it back here to sell in Naperville. DuPage is becoming more of the center for drug use because there is money here as well as accessibility."
That accessibility has led to at least seven people dying due to heroin use in Naperville in recent months. Recent forums at local library branches, churches and Naperville North and Neuqua Valley high schools were packed with residents looking for more information on the issue.
Elsner said concerns about adults using heroin and efforts to contain it began in earnest about 15 years ago, but reports from hospitals throughout DuPage County continue to show that today heroin use among youngsters is sharply rising.
"The problem explodes geometrically because a dealer who is also probably an addict sells to two or three people and they become addicts and that easily leads to more sellers and more addicts," he said. "The extent of the problem here in DuPage is big and it's growing. It's very difficult to kick the habit and when a kid becomes addicted, it destroys the family. But our message to the dealers out there is that money has been effective in the past and we are confident it will be this time."