Professional drug gangs with links to highly organized national crime rings are among the most serious blights that can fall on a city. Wheeling is lucky not to have them.
It is not that the big gangs have not tried, according to city Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger. They have "tried to come into the city and recruit, but we're working hard to keep that from happening," the chief told our reporter.
Unfortunately, his comments fell into the "good news, bad news" category. The bad news is that Wheeling suffers from more violent crime, fed by use of hard drugs, in comparison to Schwertfeger's last posting. Before coming to Wheeling, he worked in law enforcement in Albemarle County, Va.
Schwertfeger said he sees more hard drugs, including heroin and prescription pills, in this area. "They cause people to go crazy," he noted.
Indeed they do. And there are drug dealers aplenty to supply mind-altering substances to local buyers. Occasionally, they are involved in turf wars with shooting incidents.
But major national drug gangs are a different story. They amount to well-armed small armies, absolutely ruthless in campaigns to take over entire cities.
Schwertfeger astutely pointed out the presence of "resource" officers in schools, along with community based summer programs for youths, hurt the gangs' recruiting efforts.
School resource officers provide a variety of benefits to young people, schools and communities. Countering drug gang recruiters is just one more reason to view them as critical assets.