Steubenville Under Siege

A popular theme for movies is police officers who adopt siege mentalities because they feel outnumbered and outgunned by violent criminals. A real-life version of this is occurring in Steubenville.

Since Jan. 1, 15 gun-related crimes have been reported in Steubenville, the leader of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police said Monday. That is an average of one a week – and 10 of the reports involved shots being fired. During the last, on Saturday, a robbery suspect opened fire on police. He is in custody.

Jim Marquis, president of FOP Lodge No. 1, blamed what he called an all-time high in violent crime in part on reductions in police department staff. The Steubenville Police Department has 38 officers and three dispatchers, down about 30 percent from the level just a few years ago, he said.

To an extent, Marquis has a point. While Steubenville’s police department may be comparable in size to those of cities with similar populations, few other cities are coping with the same level of violent crime.

But city officials have cut back on spending in most areas of government during the past few years, because revenue is limited severely. Steubenville officials find themselves wishing they could hire more police officers but not knowing how they would pay the salaries.

While Marquis and City Manager Cathy Davison seem to disagree on some police-related matters, they see eye-to-eye on one. Much of the violence in Steubenville is instigated by drug dealers from outside the area, they note.

Three men arrested in connection with a shooting that killed one man last week are from Chicago. That city seems to be a center for drug activity reaching out to the Ohio Valley

As Marquis noted, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies are cooperating in the battle against drug dealers in Steubenville. Still, the shooting goes on.

Steubenville cannot afford a police department the size of what it had once. But in the short term, Marquis is asking whether the city can afford not to have more officers on the street.

Perhaps Davison and other city officials should look into options to boost the police force on a temporary basis, until out-of-town drug dealers can be stopped. State and federal agencies also should find ways to send more personnel into the fray in Steubenville. Clearly, Marquis is right about one thing: Steubenville residents are under siege, in a way.