Cooperation helps in fight on drugs

There are a lot of fish swimming in the sea of drug trafficking.

There are the small fish, the users, and varying sizes of drug-dealing fish. Law enforcement, like a fisherman, tries to catch the big fish, but it is the most elusive.

Drug dealers work hard not to get caught. They learn from the mistakes of drug dealers who are in prison.

Those who deal drugs in this area know the advantages offered by the border between Ohio and West Virginia. They go back and forth across the bridges to evade local and state investigators.

Two local men were recently convicted in U.S. District Court in Columbus of running a heroin-distribution ring that extended from Steubenville to Weirton, Wheeling and Bellaire.

To show the extent of the drug dealing, one of the defendants had a checking account with a $379,000 balance and no legitimate income to support the deposits. The convicted drug dealers drove expensive SUVs and even a Porsche with a value in excess of $100,000.

Those fish were on the sonar of investigators for years.

The only way they were caught was a large cooperative effort between local drug task forces and state and federal investigators.

Four co-defendants in the case pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a total of almost 20 years in prison. Three others have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin was appointed a special U.S. assistant attorney and helped in the week-long trial.

Drug dealing is rampant in the area. Dealers push heroin onto the streets, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of lives being ruined. Families are torn apart. Drug users steal from family members and shoplift and steal on a daily basis to support their habit.

Fishing for drug dealers has to be a cooperative effort between local, state and federal investigators.

The feds bring resources not available to local drug task forces. Thanks to the cooperative effort in the recent federal case, nine drug dealers were removed from the street and face federal prison sentences.

Drug dealers fear the federal investigators. Once caught, they know the far-reaching power of the feds will put them away.

The cooperation must continue between local, state and federal agencies.

New fish will swim into the area to pick up the drug-dealing void left by the convictions.

Everyone, including residents who call anonymous tip lines, must work together to catch those fish and rid our area of the poison they peddle on the streets.