A wild West mentality seems to be prevailing among some in the Ohio Valley criminal element. There are differences, however: Instead of six-shooters, some of the local thugs prefer assault rifles. And gunfights on our streets occur not at high noon, but often in the dead of night.
Within 24 hours, two shootings occurred in the local area. On Monday afternoon, gunfire was traded between people in a car and others in the 1500 block of Orchard Street in Steubenville. Police made one arrest quickly and issued charges against two other men.
Then, shortly after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, an altercation in the area of North Huron and Indiana streets on Wheeling Island erupted into a shooting. One man was wounded. Police were able to get descriptions of two suspects.
The two shootings were just the latest in a series that has plagued the Ohio Valley during a period of several weeks. If gunfights on our streets continue, it is only a matter of time until innocent bystanders - or perhaps people in nearby homes or businesses - are hit by stray bullets.
Violent hoodlums have not been content to trade shots in public, however. Just a few weeks ago, a local man was killed while attempting to rob a Wheeling pharmacy. Then, last weekend, a 92-year-old West Bellaire woman was robbed and murdered in her home.
In some of the violence, drugs clearly were the motivator. In others, it is entirely possible they were involved directly or indirectly.
Law enforcement agencies often are successful in tracking down and arresting the perpetrators of such offenses. Frequently that is a result of help from the community, often from people who witness the crimes. Sometimes, help comes from those who simply hear or see something that leads them to believe they can help in an investigation.
Without such assistance, police often are limited in what they can do to curb violent crime.
If you have any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you, that may help the police bring this round of violence in our area to an end, pick up a telephone and call your local law enforcement agency. Again, if something isn't done to put the culprits behind bars soon, they will become even more emboldened - and much more dangerous to our communities.