Crime-fighting in Youngstown is going into high gear — again

On the heels of a very successful war on crime in the city of Warren, which came on the heels of a very successful war on crime in the city of Youngstown, the 2013 version of the war was unveiled last week by Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dave Toepfer, and a slew of other law enforcement and criminal justice officials. In all, 13 agencies will be participating in the “Violence Interruption Patrols Program,” which will be in effect through Labor Day.

Do such saturation campaigns work? Just ask the hundreds of drug kingpins, drug pushers, drug gangbangers and everyday criminals who have been sent away for years in federal and state prisons.

And, more importantly, ask the residents of the high-crime neighborhoods the cities of Youngstown and Warren. They’re the ones one the front lines of the drug-related gun violence, including homicides. They’re the ones who are virtual prisoners in their homes, especially during the sweltering days of summer.

Two weeks ago, a year-long investigation by the city of Warren, state and federal law enforcement agencies of a major drug operation resulted in the arrest of 100 or so and the seizure of 150 firearms. In addition, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine worth more than $1 million on the streets were confiscated.

For a city with a population of about 40,000, that qualified as a major drug operation and a hugely successful law enforcement campaign.

Likewise, in 2011, Youngstown’s Police Department in partnership with state and federal law enforcement agencies launched two raids to break up a criminal enterprise that was characterized as an international drug ring — in a city of 65,000.

Twenty-eight people were indicted on drug conspiracy charges, in addition to the 23 members of the LSP street gang who were arrested following a two-year investigation.

Saturation works

These law enforcement initiatives are about saturating the streets of the two major communities in the Mahoning Valley with heavily armed, well-trained crime-fighting personnel.

And the initiatives about getting residents involved through community-based organizations and members of the clergy.

This year’s Youngstown initiative will involve the following: the city police department; Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department; U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland; FBI; Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force; Youngstown Prosecutor’s Office; U.S. Marshal’s Office; Mahoning County Juvenile Probation Department; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation; Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office; Ohio Adult Parole Authority; and, Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force.

Chief Foley, who was chief of detectives before he was appointed by Mayor Charles Sammarone to lead the department, offered a poignant observation about violent crime during last week’s rollout of the initiative:

“As I’ve said before, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem, so we need the help of the community and the faith-based community in this effort.”

The message such crime-fighting campaigns sends to participants of the criminal enterprises is clear: Don’t think you can operate without a care in the world just because the cities of Youngstown and Warren are small compared with major metropolitan areas.

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