ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of 40 people investigators said were involved with the dealing of crack cocaine.
Sheriff Ken Mascara said he enacted, "Operation Crack Down," in response to the rise his undercover deputies are seeing in crack cocaine.
"Some (deputies) got out and some more cars came and I don't know how many. Police cars and vans," said Annie Davis, a neighbor and witness of the bust.
Davis and the rest of her Fort Pierce neighborhood near 22nd Avenue and E. Street had a front row seat to "Operation Crack Down."
Sheriff Mascara said with new, more strict legislation on pills, undercover agents started seeing a huge uptick in the dealing of crack cocaine. Mascara said he and his staff decided to target the drug.
"This is significant. This is a lot of street level dealers who have been doing (this) for many years. Their past history includes marijuana or crack cocaine," said sheriff Mascara.
The use and dealing of crack cocaine is a trend investigators said is evident by the 40 alleged dealers they arrested. Sheriff Mascara suspects the list will get longer.
"We haven't seen it yet. We usually trail behind (law enforcement) because people still have access to opiates and benzos," said Beth Pernice, New Horizons Mental Health Center.
Pernice said New Horizons is still seeing a lot of pill abuse. Pernice said workers though are preparing for what investigators are calling a resurgence of crack use in Saint Lucie County.
"We're going to see a lot of people who have been on crack binges and they're going to become very psychotic because of that . So we're going to see an increase in mental health and substance abuse services," said Pernice.
Sheriff Mascara said most of the people arrested had a significant past of drug and violence-related convictions.
When asked what would prevent the alleged violators from getting out and repeating their alleged offense, sheriff Mascara said he hopes this bust is different and that it sends a message to others thinking about dealing.
Investigators said in addition to the 40 people arrested, they are still looking for 13 others they said are involved.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office said anyone with information should call Treasure Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-800-273-TIPS.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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