James West and Artemus Gordon fought evil in "The Wild, Wild West" TV show, and now U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly are doing it in Operation Wild, Wild East.
Law enforcement officers rounded up 38 of 58 suspects in an early morning raid last week. When Wigginton said they went after the bad actors, he wasn't kidding. The 58 suspects, many drug dealers, have a combined 1,168 previous arrests.
While it's great to get these individuals off the street, the bigger, ongoing danger is the breakdown of law enforcement in these areas, which has allowed criminals to operate brazenly during the day in the East St. Louis area -- near schools, churches and retail areas.
"We have a failed state in the home state of the president of the United States," Kelly said. Strong words from a person in the same party as President Obama, but right on the mark.
Restoring law and order in places like Washington Park and East St. Louis needs to be our region's No. 1 priority. This is everyone's challenge, not just the residents of those communities. The failure to rein in crime and allow lawlessness in these areas has impeded economic development and puts the entire metro-east at risk. Criminals don't stay at home; they are mobile and in many cases responsible for crimes in the surrounding towns.
Wiggington's and Kelly's aggressive special operations are a real blessing. But if we want the metro-east to grow and prosper, we have to muster the resources to adequately fight crime on a daily basis and tame the Wild, Wild East.