Area Needs Help Battling Criminals

Give Wheeling police officers and officials credit: They seem to be taking quite a bite out of crime. As Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger noted last week, his department made 940 arrests last year, compared to 689 in 2016.

But law enforcement officers in our area are engaged in a tough fight that is getting more difficult. Also last year, serious crimes — those involving violence and drug abuse — were up substantially. Schwertfeger thinks one reason for sexual assault reports may be increased awareness about the crime.

He also knows that there is a strong link between drug abuse and sex crimes.

Substance abuse has become an epidemic in our area. Last year, city police responded to 110 drug overdose calls. That is two a week; it is a tribute to local first responders that the death toll was held to six.

What is particularly disturbing about the local crime situation is that, to a large extent, we seem to be on our own in battling it. Schwertfeger told our reporter he applied for a grant to hire a new officer focusing on drug crime, but was turned down.

West Virginia is the epicenter of the national substance abuse crisis. Yet little federal funding has been provided to help police and sheriff’s departments combat the scourge. That needs to end — and our representatives and senators in Congress should insist that it does.