Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, has promised to look into whether enough is being done to curb violence in publicly owned and subsidized housing projects in Steubenville. A good place to start would be determining whether those in charge of the apartment buildings are using all the authority they have to keep criminals out.
One target of criticism has been the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority. It was at the JMHA's Earl Rodgers complex that a gunfight erupted on May 21, prompting some residents to complain not enough is being done to keep them safe.
Representatives from the authority and city government have met to discuss action to do just that. But JMHA Executive Director Joe Costantini has complained there "are federal regulations that impede us in dealing with some of these issues."
Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison thinks the authority "is not taking steps to stop the (criminal) activities in the public housing apartments and not allowing us to help them."
Clearly, there is a substantial disagreement concerning whether the blame for not doing more to keep criminals out of the housing complexes rests on the JMHA or federal officials. It should not be difficult for Johnson's staff to find out whether the authority is handcuffed by the regulations.
If that is the case, Johnson and other members of Congress should look into whether federal housing rules go too far to be fair to tenants - or are merely guaranteeing the due process that is part of the foundation of the U.S. system of justice.
At some point local officials - and residents - may have to address that issue on their own. For now, however, simply determining whether the JMHA is using all the power at its disposal to fight crime in housing complexes should be the focus of Johnson's inquiry.