WHEELING - To help curb crime in West Virginia and Ohio, U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said Tuesday his office plans to work with law enforcement across the Ohio River, especially in Jefferson and Belmont counties.
"It's not my district. ... But it's my Ohio Valley and it's your Ohio Valley and we need to do more," Ihlenfeld said during a Wheeling Rotary Club meeting at WesBanco Arena. "Something needs to be done - it affects all of us. You can't just pretend it's not there. It spills over to West Virginia - you see that on a regular basis. And some of our bad people spill over there."
Ihlenfeld was the guest speaker during the noon meeting. He touched on a variety of topics, explaining his office's responsibilities to the Northern District of West Virginia. Locally, however, drug trafficking and drug-related crimes are most prominent. And prescription drugs and heroin currently are some addicts' drugs of choice. Other problem drugs include crack cocaine and bath salts.
Ihlenfeld noted previously that much of the drug-related problems in his district originate in the Steubenville area. The Fraternal Order of Police in Steubenville recently called on city officials to hire more officers or face a summer of increased gun- and drug-related crime because of a lack of needed officers.
"We're going to have more focus on heroin and sources of supply. We don't like that people are possessing small quantities and using small quantities. But from my office's perspective, we're looking at where's it coming from? Is it Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh? We need to work together with all of our resources and go after the sources of supply and cut it off," he said.
Ihlenfeld was asked why it appears people have switched to heroin use. He said people became addicted to using pain medicines, such as oxycodone; however, it is expensive. And cheaper heroin gives a similar high.
"I've seen undercover surveillance videos where young women don't want to put the needles in their arms. ... The young woman said, 'I don't want to put the needle in my arm, but my boyfriend will do it for me,'" he said. "She needed the rush to keep from getting sick. With heroin, if you don't use it for awhile, you get sick."
Ihlenfeld noted the production of heroin has increased in Mexico, while the production of cocaine has declined.
"A lot of that drives what we see up here," he said.
Ihlenfeld also was asked his opinion on legalizing marijuana. He said he thought doing so would be a bad idea. Many drug addicts, he noted, started out drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at a younger age. Then they graduate to drugs such as heroin, he said.