The days when police officers could order people who looked suspicious to "move along" are long gone. So is the era in which landlords could refuse to rent to people because they "looked shady."
While more protection of civil liberties has been a good thing for many law-abiding people, it also has been a boon to some in the criminal element. Unless they are caught red-handed selling drugs, shooting at people, intimidating witnesses or engaging in other crimes, there is little that can be done about them.
It seems as if that may be part of the problem in some areas of Steubenville. There, residents complain the police don't do enough to protect them. Law enforcement agencies respond they need help from the community. Landlords and real estate agents are urged not to rent to troublemakers and to evict those even suspected of breaking the law.
More discussion of crime occurred during a Steubenville City Council meeting this week. Not much new was offered to address the problem of violent criminals.
"We have allowed certain people to invade our town and they have taken over," complained Delores Wiggins, vice president of the Hilltop Community Development Corp., a group of residents in the LaBelle View and Pleasant Heights neighborhoods. "They" certainly have, despite strenuous efforts by Wiggins and others to curb criminal activity.
Some progress is being made. Community groups and individual residents have become more active in reporting criminal activity. Law enforcement agencies are taking a more targeted approach to troubled neighborhoods - and troublemakers. Some owners of apartment complexes have pledged to take a more active approach in policing the facilities.
This coordinated approach will work only if everyone involved remains focused. Drug dealers need to know that if they ply their trade in public, someone will call the police - and that officers will show up at the scene quickly. Thugs with guns must be convinced that if they draw them, they will go to jail. Those convicted of crimes should take it as a certainty they will be looking for new places to live once they get out of jail.
Community activists involved in the battle against crime will not rest until they have taken their neighborhoods back. Once the hoodlums understand that, it is only a matter of time before they leave.