Drug Dealers Get a Message

A drug raid staged this week in Steubenville was worth the months of investigation that led up to it. As Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla put it, arrests made Tuesday should send “a strong message” to out-of-town drug dealers who ply their vicious trade in our area.

Of the seven people arrested Tuesday, four are Chicago residents. Law enforcement officials say most of the heroin coming into our area moves here by way of Chicago.

Abdalla said the message local authorities want to send is simple: “Go back to Chicago or face prison here in Jefferson County.”

Precisely. If the four Chicago men arrested in Steubenville are found guilty of large-scale drug dealing in our area, they should be sent to prison for the maximum terms available under the law. Then, local authorities should find a way to spread the word in Chicago – and other cities where drug kingpins may be considering operations here – that the Ohio Valley won’t tolerate such an invasion.

Make no mistake about it: The Steubenville raid broke up a major heroin operation. About 50 grams of the deadly white powder, potentially enough for thousands of doses, was confiscated.

Among those involved in the operation were Steubenville police, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the Jefferson County Drug Task Force, Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug Task Force, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. That, too, should send a message to the drug lords. It is that overwhelming force will be used to combat them.

Law enforcement agencies sometimes are criticized for failing to “bust” street dealers of illegal drugs immediately. But they are right to adopt the strategy that clearly paid off in this situation, of working hard to ensnare the kingpins, even if it means some delay in arresting the “little fish.”