Time for regional approach to war on illegal drug trade

On the heels of the success- ful yearlong investigation of a major drug operation with roots in Detroit, law enforcement officials in Trumbull County will unveil a strategy in September to combat the illegal drug trade.

While we applaud the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force, which is leading the charge on the war on this scourge, we wonder if it isn’t time for a Mahoning Valleywide initiative.

After all, the drug lords and the pushers aren’t confined by boundaries — whether on the local, state or national levels. They go where the demand for illegal drugs, especially marijuana, cocaine and heroin, exists.

It is no accident that Detroit is the center of the criminal enterprises that have been targeted in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. The list of individuals charged includes a significant number of out-of-towners.

If the “industry” embraces the concept of strength in numbers — there are a lot of drug lords and drug dealers out there — why not local governments?

The investigation by the city of Warren, state and federal law enforcement agencies resulted in about 100 arrests and seizure of more than 150 firearms. In addition, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine were confiscated, with a street value of more than $1 million.

Close to 200 law enforcement agents, including members of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and TAG task force swarmed the city of Warren about two weeks ago to make the arrests. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work.

In 2011, Youngstown police, in partnership with state and federal law enforcement agencies, conducted two raids to break up a criminal enterprise that was characterized as an international drug ring. An individual from Mexico headed the ring and arranged for heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to flow into Youngstown.

The drugs were shipped from San Diego to New York City and then were brought to local dealers. Twenty-eight people were indicted on drug conspiracy charges. Earlier, 23 members of the LSP street gang were arrested following a two-year investigation.

Ground Zero

It should be clear by now that the cities of Youngstown and Warren, the two largest population centers in the Mahoning Valley, are Ground Zero for the drug kingpins.

Perhaps they consider the cities easy pickings because they are small and do not have the police forces to fight back.

But, when regional, state and federal law enforcement agencies are involved in the war, the advantage shifts from the criminals to the good guys.

Hence, our belief that this is a regional problem that can most effectively be addressed on a regional basis.

Trumbull County officials are to be commended for taking such an aggressive approach to fighting this scourge, but focusing on Trumbull and Ashtabula counties may be too confining.

Think of the message that would be sent around the country if officials in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and surrounding counties unleashed a Blitzkrieg to not only take out the drug lords and the drug pushers but to deal with the ever growing problem of drug use and abuse.

Taken together, the tri-county area has a total population that’s smaller than many cities around the country. The war on drugs is ideally suited for a regional approach.

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