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Cops track down 40 warrant jumpers

ZiPolice K9 Officer JMeyers (left) with Ozzie ZiPolice Detective Mike Ware guard rear house 300 block Powell Ave. Waukegan during

Zion Police K9 Officer Jon Meyers (left) with Ozzie and Zion Police Detective Mike Ware guard the rear of a house in the 300 block of Powell Ave. in Waukegan during a warrant sweep. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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The following agencies participated Thursday in the county’s largest warrants sweep: Lake County Sheriff’s Office; Lake County States Attorney’s Office; Illinois State Police SWAT, District 2 and District 15; Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force; and police from Park City, Zion, Lake Forest, Lake County Forest Preserve, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire, Bannockburn, Wauconda, Lakemoor, Grayslake, Gurnee, College of Lake County, Lindenhurst and Mundelein.

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Updated: April 30, 2013 5:35PM

Police could clearly see the blinds part as someone peaked out from the second-floor window as a group of officers gathered outside the two-flat at 1022 Pacific St., Waukegan, early Thursday.

Two officers stationed themselves near windows on either side of the house, while another and his dog went to the back in case the suspect try to flee out a back door or window. Three went up to the door and two more stood back to survey the entire area.

The action being taken was part of what Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said was the biggest warrants sweep ever made in the county. There were 100 police officers, state’s attorney investigators, jail transport personnel and some civilian from 22 agencies that gathered at 5:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Waukegan making the city’s downtown unusually busy at that hour.

Eight different teams took their share of 200 warrants, a large majority felony warrants, and headed out across the county. Police made 38 arrests, with two additional arrests for out of county warrants, for everything from identity theft to aggravated battery to failure to appear in court on felony DUI charges.

“We do a couple of these a year,” said Curran, but this is the largest sweep we’ve ever had in Lake County. We have about 16,000 (outstanding) warrants, 2,500 less than last year and that’s the lowest number in 10 years.”

At the Pacific Street address, officers kept knocking until they were let into the first floor where they could access the upstairs apartment, hoping to arrest Helena Matthews, 32, for felony identity theft.

After pounding on the door for minutes, someone finally answered and the pregnant suspect agreed to go quietly with police.

The officers moved down list and headed out to the next address.

Some of the ground rules include police cannot just barge into an apartment or home if the person the police are seeking does not own or lease the property. At 320 4th St., Waukegan, police were looking for a man who had an outstanding warrant for felony driving under the influence. “I can’t hear you, but I can hear your voice. Open the door so I can talk to you,” said Sheriff’s Detective Felix Pena.

A woman answered the door and he tried to convince her that it would be best if the man gave himself up, but she insisted he was not there so police left. “I’d bet he was in there,” he said as he picked out the next location to hit.

As police gathered around to get the background and mug shot for the next stop, Pena injected some humor.

“This next guy is no relation, Juan Pena,” and some of the officers cracked up and said, “Sure.” The man was wanted for failure to appear and resisting arrest. Some of his prior arrests included three assaults, criminal damage to property and dangerous drugs. Everyone jumped into mostly unmarked police vehicles and off they went to 838 Chestnut St.

Once again, officers took up positions and a man came to the door pretty quickly, but the conversation didn’t last long. “It’s a new tenant. I recognized the guy from the restaurant me and my partner used to go to. The guy has moved,” Pena said.

And so it went for all the teams. Sometimes their target wasn’t there and sometimes he or she was. But each time they had to take proper precautions because you never know what might happen.

Team 1 was on high alert when they went to 2019 Galilee Ave., in Zion, where the suspect was wanted for burglary. “This guy has 52 total arrests and 19 convictions for larceny, drugs, trafficking, obstructing justice and resisting,” said Pena.

Everyone got into position and Pena banged on the door for nearly a minute, but other officers looking inside with flashlights saw no one moving around. “He might of stayed with his girlfriend last night,” Pena said as they gathered for the next background briefing.

The warrants sweep is actually a two-week process and 84 of 200 target warrants were actually cleared. There were 14 found to be deceased or a judge quashed the warrant because it was very old and for a minor offense.

Thirteen people self-surrendered after they heard police were calling, talking to relatives and friends trying to find a good address for the suspect.

Another four were transported from other county jails and there were two out-of-county warrants cleared. Another 11 were found to be in the custody of other jails and a hold was placed on them so that once they got out of that jail they could not go free.

“This demonstrates Lake County law enforcement agencies work particularly well together,” said Curran. “They come together to serve the community, crime victims and in some instances, protect us from evil,” he said.

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