Just as law enforcement officials will tell you that drugs are at the heart of Youngstown’s crime epidemic, drug dealers and other gangbangers will admit that serving time in state prison or county jail is much preferred than being in the federal penitentiary. Which is why having the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland and various federal agencies involved in Youngstown’s crime-fighting efforts is a boom to the Mahoning Valley.
The presence of the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshal’s Service on the streets alongside local law-enforcement agencies has been shown, through crime statistics, to be a great deterrent. And, the federal prison sentences handed down to criminals charged under federal statutes serve as a stern warning to would-be crooks.
On April 17, U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster in Cleveland sentenced 17 defendants in a heroin- and cocaine-trafficking conspiracy that sold the drugs on Youngstown’s East Side and in Campbell.
The ring leader, Luis Angel Martinez, 33. of Youngstown will be in the federal pen for 10 years after being convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. Martinez will be on supervised release for eight years following his release from prison. He may find some pride in the fact that the drug sweep last year that resulted in more than 60 people being nabbed was named “Operation Deja Vu.” That’s because Martinez served 18 months in prison on similar charges arising from a 2004 investigation.
Twenty-five defendants were named in a 61-count federal indictment issued by a grand jury. All entered guilty pleas to one or more counts in the indictment. Thirty-seven other defendants were indicted on state charges ranging from drug possession to heroin trafficking.
Last year, in announcing the drug sweep, U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach made the following observation: “This case shows that although people who deal drugs and have these firearms do not give up easy, neither do we. We are talking about a group of people who brought drugs into Youngstown and sold them around the area, often carrying guns as a tool of the trade like some people carry a hammer.”
Those people and others of their ilk have been destroying the fabric of our society and have contributed to the decline of the city of Youngstown. They deserve the harshest punishment possible.
While Martinez received the longest prison sentence, others have been sent away for five years or less. Two were placed on probation.
The fact that he would obtain the drugs from sources in New York City, Buffalo, N.Y., and Youngstown and distribute them to lower-level dealers for sale in this area speaks to the sophistication of the local criminals. It also speaks to their brazenness.
The drug gangs continue to create havoc in the community and must be stopped.
Since “Operation GRIP/Violence — Gun Reduction and Interdiction Program” was launched by Dettelbach in 2010, numerous criminals have been taken off the streets, and more than 150 firearms have been seized.
The program has been a success by any measure, and it should be resurrected this summer. The participation of 17 law enforcement and criminal justice agencies is not only significant, but reassuring to residents who simply want the streets to be safe — particularly in the summer.