Taking Back Steubenville

People should not be terrified of what could happen to them in their own homes. They should not be afraid to allow their children to go to parks. They should not have to worry about an armed invasion of their community.

Such fears are a fact of life for some Steubenville residents. Neither they nor their fellow city residents in neighborhoods not affected directly by the violence should put up with it.

Earlier this week, two teenagers were wounded when someone opened fire at people in Piece of Pie Park in Steubenville. Two men were arrested in connection with the attack.

On Tuesday night, City Council took the drastic step of closing the park. Its equipment will be dismantled. Even a guardrail there will be removed so no one going to the site will have a place to sit down.

“Maybe two years from now we can rebuild Piece of the Pie Park,” speculated Councilman Kenny Davis.

Let us hope so. City residents deserve places where they can gather with friends to relax, play a game of softball, or just watch their children play.

Piece of Pie Park has not been such a place for some time, according to a few of those who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting. “It has become a gathering place for gangs,” Councilman Mike Johnson said.

The gangs will simply go somewhere else in Steubenville.

Many of the thugs responsible for violence in Steubenville during recent years do not live there. They are dealers in illegal drugs who, in the words of city resident Delores Wiggins, “feel Steubenville is an easy place.”

Retired Judge John Mascio suggested they be disabused of that notion. He recommended legal “profiling” – that is, special police attention to certain people and certain types of behavior in the city. “If you see a brand new Cadillac Escalade stopped on the street with a line of people at the car, you know there might be a problem,” Mascio explained. “If you keep hammering these people, they will go somewhere else. The residents shouldn’t suffer because these bums are coming into our town.”

No, they should not.

But they do.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Maryland Avenue resident Michael Merritt said a stray bullet from the park shooting went through his daughter’s bedroom wall.

Merritt is thankful his daughter was not hurt. He also is angry.

That situation is not the first time Steubenville residents have worried innocent victims might get caught in the crossfire of drug gang wars in Steubenville. Eventually, it will happen.

Steubenville has become ground zero of an armed invasion by drug gangs and individual pushers from larger cities. And it has to be said some of the peril results from local thugs.

Regardless of who they are and where they live, they need to be stopped.

More state and federal law enforcement assistance is needed, of course. Steubenville police and other local law enforcement agencies simply do not have the resources to turn back the invaders.

But they can make a start. One suggestion Tuesday night was for more police patrols in troubled areas, even if that requires the city to pay overtime to officers.

City officials should do just that – and anything else within the law they can think of to turn the tide.

Steubenville needs to be taken back from the domestic drug terrorists. Their reign of fear needs to come to an end.