East Ohio law enforcement agencies have known about the Chicago drug connection for some time. Cutting the pipeline, which now seems to be carrying heroin, is another matter, however.
An idea of the magnitude of the problem can be gained from arrests made last week in Jefferson County.
Three raids on apartments in Steubenville and a house in Toronto netted heroin, drug paraphernalia, a gun and about $7,300 in cash. Three men - all either from Chicago or recently residents of that city - were arrested. On Thursday, another man was arrested in what police say was a delivery of heroin from Chicago to Jefferson County.
Investigations that resulted in the arrests have been going on for several months and have involved local law enforcement agencies from both Ohio and West Virginia, as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Just a few days ago, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned heroin addiction has become an epidemic in the Buckeye State. As evidence, he pointed to an increase in the number of deaths caused by heroin overdoses. There were 606 of them last year in Ohio cities and counties that reported statistics to the attorney general.
As we pointed out at the time, those statistics were not complete. Many counties, including those in East Ohio, did not furnish numbers to DeWine's office.
Again, however, it is known East Ohio has a severe heroin problem - and it is apparent drug lords in Chicago are much of the reason for it. The recent arrests merely emphasize that.
When local law enforcement authorities can help their counterparts in Chicago with evidence that may put some of the heroin kingpins behind bars, they should do so, of course.
But as police in most large cities recognize, putting drug dealers behind bars sometimes does little good. Their places are taken swiftly by others, eager to move up in the illicit trade.
Effective enforcement and severe punishment of those caught bringing drugs into our area, from Chicago or anywhere else, is likely to be more productive. The message needs to be sent that people profiting from the misery drug abuse causes will be apprehended and sent to prison for long terms. The word needs to go out that if you want to sell illegal drugs, there are far less hazardous places than the Ohio Valley to do so.