Lawrence County wins battles in war on drugs
Strict enforcement of laws against the sale and use of illicit drugs -- coupled with tough and taut investigation and prosecution -- can and do reduce crime and improve public health.
Need proof? Look no farther than Lawrence County.
As reported today in a front-page story by Vindicator Staff Writer Laure Cioffi, the number of deaths from drug overdoses in Lawrence County so far this year stands at three -- a sixth of the toll for 2004.
County medical and law enforcement officials cite two critical factors for the sharp drop.
First, the arrest of three doctors accused of handing out hundreds of prescriptions for OxyContin and other highly addictive prescription medication has put a glaring dent in local supply. One doctor reportedly bragged that he put $50,000 worth of OxyContin on the streets of New Castle each day.
Second, New Castle police have taken a no-tolerance approach to drug dealing and have strengthened patrols of areas known for drug activity.
Those efforts have paid off handsomely. Police doubled the number of drug arrests from 2003 to 2004 and are on course for matching or breaking the 2004 level this year.
Police Chief Tom Sansone's department has been performing unannounced saturation patrols in the city, dispatching large numbers of officers to areas known for drug dealing at different times of the day and night.
The results -- increases in arrests, decreases in drug deaths -- speak to the value of this multi-pronged cohesive offensive against drugs. It also reminds us that the illicit drug trade is not only a serious crime issue; it is also a serious public health issue. For every overdose death that is reported, there are countless other cases of serious illnesses fed by the drug trade.
Major drug-fighting players in the criminal justice systems in other communities throughout the Mahoning and Shenango valleys ought to look closely at the success of authorities in Lawrence County. They are proving that major battles still can be won in the relentless war on drugs.