The West Suburban Directed Gang Enforcement Task Force (WEDGE) police network has gotten a helping hand from the feds: The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Chicago Branch is now a partner of the suburban police department alliance.

“The ATF helps when we’re recovering guns and tracking serial numbers,” said Forest Park Detective Sgt. Mike Keating, who co-commands the WEDGE team. “If we need to track a weapon, they can do it for us a lot quicker. They cross check the serial number, caliber, description [of a gun] and whether it’s blue steel or chrome plated. They also tell us where it was purchased and how many owners it’s had.”

WEDGE, a coalition of suburban police departments has also expanded its network to include the River Grove Police Department.

The WEDGE unit coordinates for special missions, such as the 6 a.m. search warrant and arrest Jan. 20 of two Maywood women charged with selling ecstasy and cocaine. “We’re on an assigned schedule but we’re available 24 hours. Anything that’s going on we’re ready to rock,” said Keating.

“WEDGE takes a proactive stance in eradicating gang and drug activity in our municipalities,” said WEDGE Chairman Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel in a press release.

New radios also help. The units from different village police forces keep in touch via a special radio frequency assigned by the Cook County Sheriff’s office. With the help of U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds, all WEDGE officers received new 800 megahertz radios this year.

“Our beat is from Belmont Avenue to I-55,” said Keating. “It has about 250,000 residents. It’s bigger than Rockford. It was important to have a radio system that works and covers it,” said Keating.

Partnering with the ATF has other benefits, he said. “The feds have teeth when it comes to charging [suspects].”

“It’s nice to know people on a first name basis if WEDGE has an incident involving a weapon or tracking a weapon, or if someone wants to turn in a cache of weapons.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...