The big picture: Can the police busts make a dent in the East Side Boyz?

Patrick Larkin
news editor

For St. Paul police commander Dave Korus, the gang-related charges filed Wednesday, Oct. 9, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Though the Ramsey County attorney’s office filed charges against alleged gang members based on specific cases, the implications behind those charges are much larger, he asserts.

Those arrested are deemed by law enforcement to be key players within the East Side Boyz gang, Korus said.

Korus is part of a concentrated, multi-agency law enforcement group, called the Safe Streets Task Force, organized to address criminal gang activity in the area. The group is comprised of officers from the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The group methodically compiled a case against the East Side Boyz, a criminal gang active in parts of the East Side of St. Paul, with the idea that “you identify an enterprise ... and you go after the key players inside that group,” Korus said.

In compiling their cases and using wiretap and other surveillance strategies, the Safe Streets Task Force members were “looking at who’s got the worst reputation,” he said.

He added that in some cases, criminals probably committed a number of additional crimes but were never caught.

The primary benefit of pulling out those identified as the most active members of the gang is that none of those individuals are going to be able to encourage others to do the same, he said.

In all, he estimates that 45 to 50 gang members’ lives were disrupted by the bust.

Police estimates have the total number of East Side Boyz at somewhere between 100 and 130 people, he said. So in effect, they disrupted the organization by affecting half of the players involved, he asserted.

“The various sentencing they’re going to get... creates a complete disruption to that particular group,” he said.

While the arrests are for isolated incidents, Korus said the crimes go beyond the charges listed in the criminal complaints.

“Basically, these individuals conspire to commit mayhem every day,” he said. They wake up looking to “steal something, rob somebody ... and they’ve got a lot of access to guns.”

In all, about 35 guns have been seized in the last year as a part of “Operation Screeching Halt,” he said.


Korus said that the sale and use of codeine was integral to a lot of the gang’s activity -- “they have an addiction for codeine,” he said. “These guys were trafficking it and using it constantly.”

He said that it’s likely some in the group were committing robberies and other types of theft with the end goal of obtaining codeine.

He called the use of codeine “an unaddressed pocket of addiction.”

Codeine is an opiate that converts to morphine in the brain, according to, a database of prescription drug information compiled from information from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and other groups. The drug is commonly used in cough syrups, but is also used recreationally, and can become physically and psychologically addictive.

According to a complaint from the Ramsey County attorney’s office, it is commonly referred to on the street as “drank,” “purp,” and “sip,” among other names.

But whatever you call it, “it’s not doing these people any favors at all,” Korus said.

Korus said one codeine dealer police were observing was also using the substance, and went “completely down the tubes” as a result of his drug use.

Suspected use of the drug by the East Side Boyz goes back two years ago, based on some wiretapping.

But “it’s really spiked within the last year and a half,” he said.

Part of this is because the drug in a way falls into a gray area -- “It’s not crack; it’s not heroin; it’s not meth,” he said.

Some of the substance was attained by members of the East Side Boyz via a supply chain from Arizona, according to complaints from the Ramsey County attorney’s office.

A target

Korus said that the East Side Boyz and other neighborhood gangs are prime targets for law enforcement.

“If you choose this type of lifestyle, we have people that are going to come after you,” he said. He noted that some of the men charged had thought they’d gotten away with gun crimes that they now face charges for.

The end goal of targeting the East Side Boyz is to deter anyone thinking of getting involved, he said.

“All those young kids out there that thought these guys were cool ... they’re not going to be cool wearing orange (prison jumpsuits) and flip flops for a number of years,” he said, referring to the HAM Crazy gang members, a youth gang that police identify as a feeder for the East Side Boyz.

He said he’s hoping that seeing the sentencing for the people charged will deflate the image of gang life.

“I have the hope that anybody who saw those guys ... having cult status, claiming to be a bad-ass and that nobody can screw with you ... that they don’t even want to claim association with that group because it makes them a target.”

Korus noted that the effort to prevent gang crimes is much broader than the work of the Safe Streets Task Force.

He said a major element of preventing gang activity has to do with the police department’s gang unit, which does intervention and prevention programming through organizations like the YMCA and YWCA, as well as the city’s parks and recreation department.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at

— Gang busts on the East Side — the busts, the details, and the big picture

The busts: 16 arrested in East Side gang targeting

The detail: Criminal complaints outline charges filed against alleged gang members

The big picture: Can the police busts make a dent in the East Side Boyz?



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