Last week’s announcement of a major crime bust was significant for a couple of reasons. First, it revealed the extent of the heroin epidemic in this region. Second, it confirmed what law enforcement officials have long contended — that crime knows no boundaries.
The press conference to announce the arrest of eight people connected to a large-scale burglary ring was held in Boardman, not Youngstown, which is the usual setting for such law enforcement pronouncements.
A front page picture of the participants showed: Springfield Police Chief Matthew Mohn; Poland Township Police Chief Brian Gooden; Struthers Police Chief Tim Roddy; Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley; and, Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Martin P. Desmond.
A large cache of stolen property was on display at the press conference.
In discussing how the eight individuals tied to the home-invasion operation conducted business, the chiefs and assistant prosecutor revealed an important tidbit about the nature of such criminal activity: Homes in the suburbs are targeted because the criminals know that there are items of value, especially jewelry, to be found in them.
The police chiefs are members of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force, which conducted the theft-for-heroin operation. Poland Detective Greg Wilson was the lead investigator.
By any measure, this is a major development in the ongoing law enforcement campaign against the illegal drug trade in the Mahoning Valley.
The arrests of the eight and of the owner of Leslie’s Precious Metals, Dominic Eckman, come just three weeks after local, state and federal law enforcement officials concluded a three-year, heroin-ring investigation with the indictment of 36 individuals. Twelve of those face federal charges relating to the distribution of heroin in Mahoning County, mostly in Youngstown. Two dozen face state charges stemming from their participation in the heroin ring.
A year ago, 17 defendants in a heroin- and cocaine-trafficking ring were sentenced in federal court. The ring sold drugs on Youngstown’s East Side and Campbell.
The eight individuals arrested last week are linked to 16 burglaries in Poland, Springfield, Struthers, Boardman, New Middletown and Girard.
‘Jewelry and computers’
“Daytime, forced entry, stealing only items they carry, like jewelry and computers,” Detective Wilson said, in describing the method of operation.
The jewelry would be sold mainly to Eckman and the proceeds would be used to buy heroin from dealers in Youngstown.
While the home invasions may not rise to the level of crime that many Youngstown residents unfortunately have come to accept as the cost of living in an urban community — drug-related gang warfare on the streets of poorer neighborhoods — the trauma to the homeowners nonetheless is just as great.
“We all believe in the sanctity of the home as castle,” Youngstown’s police chief, Foley, said.
There also is the realization that the suburbs are just as vulnerable as Youngstown or Warren when it comes crime. Entities such as the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force provide the expertise and the manpower that smaller communities do not have.