Punishing Home Invaders Harshly

Judges in our area seem to take a dim view of people who break into apartments or houses while the residents are home. Good. They should throw the book at so-called home invaders.

During the past month in Wheeling alone, police have investigated about 15 break-ins at homes and businesses. In some of them, people were awakened at night to find intruders in their homes. In two cases, the intrusions occurred in broad daylight.

It is difficult to avoid concluding what seems to be an upswing in breaking and enterings and burglaries is related to illegal drug trafficking. Criminals looking for drugs or money to buy them probably are involved in many of the home invasions.

If this continues, it is only a matter of time until a criminal is confronted by a homeowner or business employee – and someone is hurt or killed.

It already has happened, most recently in May 2012. Then, a Wellsburg man attempting to steal drugs went into an Elm Grove pharmacy brandishing a pistol. His behavior was erratic and threatening, and an employee of the business shot him dead.

Unfortunately, when armed burglars enter occupied homes, the odds are on their side in violent confrontations. Let’s pray innocent bystanders in the drug war do not lose their lives.

Judges in both the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio tend to hand out harsher sentences to burglars who enter occupied houses and apartments than to those who break in to places where no one is at home. That is appropriate. Judges should sentence such offenders to the maximum prison sentences permitted under the law, in an effort to deter others from putting the public at risk unnecessarily.

Drug addiction can do terrible things to those it afflicts. Often, it emboldens them to commit criminal acts they would never have considered before becoming addicted.

Addicts who seek help should receive it. But those who cross the line between harming themselves and putting others in danger should be punished severely.