Federal and local law enforcement raided stash houses and made arrests early Thursday as authorities cracked down on a gang-controlled heroin and crack cocaine operation just off the Eisenhower Expressway, dubbed the “Heroin Highway” by law enforcement for its easy access to Chicago’s West Side.

At a news conference at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said the charges against 27 individuals mirror a trend of Chicago’s street gangs aligning into localized drug-dealing factions.

Authorities said the investigation uncovered that Kenny Shoulders, a leader of the Conservative Vice Lords street gang, controlled the heroin and crack dealing in a 12-block area immediately north of Douglas Park in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

A gang informant told investigators that Conservative Vice Lord members mostly ran the drug-dealing in those blocks but with the assistance of members from the Traveling Vice Lords, Black Souls Nation, Gangster Disciples and New Breed street gangs.

While the charges don’t allege any acts of violence by the gangbangers, Fardon said, “We believe bringing serious charges such as these is an effective tool in reducing violence in our communities.”

Fardon said the arrests mark one of the most significant cases brought so far by a multijurisdictional task force of federal and local law enforcement that has been in existence for about two years. He said the strike force has the ability to develop nimble and quick-moving investigations that can disrupt the drug trade. This investigation took about a year.

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