Ohio Valley residents did not need to be told by the U.S. Justice Department that violent crime and home burglaries are on the increase in the United States. We've seen it for ourselves.
Violent crime increased by 18 percent last year after going down for two decades, according to the Justice Department. Home burglaries were up 14 percent.
During the weekend, burglars broke into two homes in the Woodsdale neighborhood of Wheeling and attempted to enter at least three others. In one of the home invasions, a resident surprised and scuffled with one of the burglars before chasing him away.
Home invasions sometimes turn even more violent. Earlier this year, a 92-year-old West Bellaire woman was murdered in her home. Two suspects were taken into custody after an intensive, weeks-long investigation.
We agree with local law enforcement officers who speculate illegal drugs are at the heart of the upswing in some types of crime. Clearly, some drug addicts have become so desperate to get money to feed their habits that they are willing to take serious risks - and harm or kill innocent victims. In some cases, the lure of easy money in selling drugs also emboldens criminals.
No doubt Wheeling police will make it a top priority to find and arrest those responsible for the weekend home invasions.
Until that can be done, local residents should be aware of the serious threat to our safety. Almost beyond any doubt, those responsible for the Woodsdale burglaries are "casing" other neighborhoods, perhaps in rural areas or other towns. More break-ins are not just possible, they are probable.
Police have advice for those worried about such crime, and it is excellent and worth following.
First, make your home as secure as possible against unwanted entry. "Try to think like a burglar ... How would you try to get into your own house?" Wheeling Police Deputy Chief Martin Kimball suggests.
Second, watch out for your neighbors. If you see something suspicious, call the police.
Third, get a burglar alarm system if you can afford it.
Law enforcement agencies should - and, we are confident, do - make home invasions a top priority. That probably is the best solution to the worry: Arrest the culprits as quickly as possible and send them to prison for a long, long time.