(KMOV) -- The St. Clair County State's Attorney teamed up with Illinois State Police, a special drug Task Force, and others for a huge crackdown on drugs charging nearly 60 people they say are seriously dangerous drug dealers-but it's that very number they say that proves just how badly police are failing to protect the towns they serve.
“It's an open air drug market and it's a failed state,” said Brendan Kelly, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney.
Kelly said of a video showing dealers exchanging drugs and cash in the middle of the day without fear of getting caught.
“It's usually done almost like a drive-through at McDonalds,” Kelly said.
Since May, investigators have caught hundreds of these deals on camera for an operation called “Wild Wild East,” focusing on four communities on the east side of the Mississippi.
In nearly 100 hours of undercover drug buys, investigators only once encountered a local police officer.
Kelly said it’s clear, laws simply aren't being enforced.
“Are these departments failing to keep these communities safe?” asked News 4 Reporter Lauren Trager. “They are doing everything they can with what they have, but that's not good enough, it's simply not enough,” Kelly said.
Kelly said it's a combo of bad cops and good ones who simply don't have enough resources.
East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore disagrees that they aren't doing their job, but he says they definitely need the state's help.
“When you don't have an army of men, you have to use your resources,” he said.
He doesn't think the number of these drug arrests is all that worrisome.
“No, it's not a concern to us, it just means there's still work to be done,” Chief Floore said.
Of the 60 dealers charged Thursday, only about half have been caught so far.
Kelly said between them, they have more than 1.000 prior convictions, some for very violent crimes. So he said he'll be making sure they stay behind bars as long as possible this time.