St. Clair County Sheriff's Department Capt. Steve Johnson, head of investigations for the department, has seen a lot of crack houses. But there's one he'll never forget.
It happened a little more than a year ago. Undercover officers with the St. Clair County Drug Tactical Unit had purchased crack cocaine from a dealer in a home near Centreville. The unit, ready with a warrant, moved in hard and quick. A federal parolee was inside, armed with a loaded, semiautomatic pistol.
Three children -- all younger than 5 -- were sleeping on piles of trash, and investigators saw a rat on top of a sleeping baby. The unit confiscated a "substantial amount" of crack, Johnson said. The children were turned over to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the parolee went back to prison. No one was injured.
But saves like that may go the way of the 12 deputies laid off this month from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department. The full-time unit, made up of sheriff's deputies and Belleville and Cahokia police officers is likely to dissolve because of the manpower shortage.
"If we can't find some sort of additional funding to keep running it, we're going to be forced to disband it," Johnson said.
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