Anyone on intensive probation in St. Clair County better be toeing the line.
A new police effort -- Operation Broken Record -- was in full swing Thursday night in Belleville and East St. Louis.
Some 40 officers and agents with the Belleville Police Department, St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, East St. Louis Police, Illinois State Police, U.S. attorney's office, St. Clair County Probation Department and the U.S. Marshal Service went to residences of 50 people who are on intensive probation. Central and west Belleville and Edgemont in East St. Louis were the targeted areas.
Right off the bat, police arrested a man who was bagging up marijuana when they arrived, U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said. The man's name was not released, pending charges.
Wigginton told reporters that four teams made up of federal, state and local officers represented a combined task force whose specific mission was to make sure the probationers were in compliance with the terms of their probation.
Terry Delaney, an assistant to Wigginton and a former federal marshal, said: "This is a pro-active initiative that we put together with all of the other agencies to address crime in the metro-east area. There are other initiatives that we are going to be putting together in the very near future."
He added: "We made five arrests and some contraband, mostly marijuana, was seized. Some of the probationer's houses that were hit were not at home, but marijuana was found in some of their homes."
Those individuals face additional charges.
While the number of arrests was not as large as anticipated Thursday night, Delaney said: "There's lots of follow-up to do. The marshals are compiling all of the warrants that we were not able to execute. The initiative is going to be ongoing. We conducted a full-blown sweep to get their attention.
"We really applaud all of the cooperation from other agents who are willing to support this initiative," he added.
Wigginton said the data compiled by law enforcement showed that not everyone who goes to prison has been rehabilitated and some are more likely to be repeat offenders.
"And, we're going to arrest those who are not following the terms of their probation," Wigginton said.
Delaney said: "They are still serving sentences. They are just out of jail on probation because the judge opted for probation as an alternative due to the overcrowding in the jails."
The convicted criminals who police were checking on committed felony crimes including aggravated battery, aggravated assault, unlawfully possessing weapons, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and possession of a controlled substance. Some of them aren't in compliance with their probation because they've violated curfews, tested positive for drugs or did not check in with probation officers.
Many on intensive probation got a break or two before, and wound up committing more crimes, hence the name Operation Broken Record, Wigginton said.
To receive probation, they had to agree to allow police to search them and their homes on an unannounced basis.
"The 40 officers out here are looking at people who are on federal probation, parole or supervised release for federal offenses," Wigginton said.
Wigginton said the goal was to make sure the neighborhoods where the probationers reside are as safe as possible. In some neighborhoods, individuals who witnessed the large police presence ran behind homes, stared out of windows and doors, or came outside to get a good look.
Residents who spoke to a reporter about Wigginton's initiative described him as a "go-getter" and applauded the work he's done since becoming the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.
"He genuinely seems to be concerned about the people who live here," one woman said.