MILWAUKEE -- Drug dealing is evolving in Milwaukee, and law enforcement officials are being forced to evolve with it. That's one of the reasons behind a little used "racketeering" charge, recently used against a drug dealing gang.
"Now instead of having the customer come to one location, they're going to the customer. They're delivering," Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said.
They're not delivering pizza or sub sandwiches. What's being delivered is heroin -- by drug dealers in stolen vehicles.
"Tinting those car windows -- so it becomes very difficult for police officers to see what's inside that car," Chisholm said.
Oftentimes, what's inside is a dealer with drugs and gun in his lap.
On Monday, December 14th, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office filed criminal charges against four Milwaukee men and their organization "Big Money Addicts" or BMA.
Rashawn Smith, Kyawn Lewis, David Harris and Errion Green-Brown (the only one not currently in custody) face charges, including racketeering -- a charge usually associated with organized crime.
That charge calls for the men to be associated in a criminal enterprise, including violence, and outline at least three criminal acts that exemplify the criminal activity must be outlined.
"We've used it on relatively rare occasions in the past. We have to seek and receive permission from the attorney general," Chisholm said.
A lengthy 53-page criminal complaint, listing 18 different charges, says the gang "used stolen vehicles that were typically newer models. This ensures proper functionality and drivability."
The gang members are also aware that "MPD policy dictates that the police squad must not initiate, and/or must stop their pursuit if they have no proof of a violent crime."
"So if the police are on to them, what they do is the flee from the scene at a high rate," Chisholm said.
According to the complaint, Smith told investigators on an average day, his gang would make between $20,000 and $28,000.
Chisholm says their operation and those like it have led to an escalation in crime in the city.
CLICK HERE to take a look at the Milwaukee Police Department's pursuit policy.
Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan held a news conference Tuesday afternoon in response to reports that criminals are exploiting the pursuit policy to the benefit of their drug dealing operations.
“It’s like I’ve said from day one,” Alderman Donovan said in a statement to FOX6 News. “This policy emboldens criminals, empowers them to conduct their operations without fear of consequences and creates an unsafe community.”
Mayor Barrett issued this statement in response to Donovan's news conference:
“Already this year there have been 246 police pursuits; in 2014 there were 102.
There has been a 16% increase in car theft arrests. MPD has made 983 car theft arrests this year compared with 850 this time last year. Since 2010 there has been a 66% increase in arrests for operating without the owner’s consent [592 arrests in 2010].
“The inter-jurisdictional auto theft task force is in place and working. Since December 1, 43 carjacking arrests have been made.
“It’s important to note that in 2015, 35 pursuits have resulted in vehicle crashes; in 2014 there were 24 crashes. We’ve had 25 injuries to suspects, 11 to third parties, 2 officers injured and 2 deaths. Last year we had 24 crashes, 26 suspects injured, 9 third party injuries and 2 offices injured.
“It’s also important for the public to know that Kyawn Lewis, one of the suspects arrested as part of the so called “Big Money Addicts” carjacking gang, was arrested and charged in May of this year for being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession with intent to distribute heroin and maintaining a drug trafficking place. In July of this year, Lewis was arrested and charged with possession and intent to deliver heroin. In both cases, the charges were dismissed on motions made by Assistant Milwaukee District Attorney Laura Ann Crivello.
“Why Kywan Lewis, and other repeat offenders as well, are back on the streets and recommitting crimes is a serious issue.”