(KMOV) – The U.S Attorney, prosecutors and several area police departments have set up the “Metro East Armed Robbery Initiative.”
The idea stems from a huge spike in brazen, armed robberies in the metro area over the summer months.
Cases that would normally be prosecuted in the county will now be moved to federal courts which sets the stage on what’s to come.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said “if you like the cold go to Yankton, if you like southern charm go to Yazzo City, Mississippi, if you like the east coast you can go to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.”
It may have sounded like Wigginton was working for the travel channel; he was actually listing half a dozen federal prisons that inmates consider some of the worst places to do their time.
“There’s a new day in the Metro-East if you’re thinking about committing armed robbery,” said Wigginton
“You think, well, maybe I’ll get probation, maybe I’ll be going to the Illinois Department of Corrections where I can see my buddies; my mom and my girlfriend can visit me, you’d better think again, “ added St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendon Kelly.
That’s part of the new approach authorities say they’re taking. Various departments will be sharing resources, K-9 units, crime scene investigators. Those getting out of federal prisons will be subject to intense supervised release.
“It requires you to report to federal probation officer, required to call in and have to submit to random drug testing, prohibited on where you can live and who you can live with,” said Wigginton.
Police say they’re seeing a new breed of criminal in this summer’s rash of armed robberies.
“They don’t seem to care...there’s no time to reason, there’s no pattern we’re seeing here. We have people who have been on parole, we have people who have never been charged with a crime,” said Chief Bill Clay of the Belleville Police Department.
“We’re seeing men, seeing women, seeing young, seeing old,” said Wigginton
Some cases may be kept at the county level rather than moved into federal court, depending on how much prison time prosecutors can push for. That will be a case-by-case basis.