The biggest crisis the Ohio Valley faces is undoubtedly heroin. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts say they can empathize with the truly addicted, but have no sympathy for those who bring the drug into our hometowns.
According to those who deal with crimes everyday; outside of sex offenses, drugs and guns are the root of nearly all crimes in Jefferson County and throughout the Ohio Valley. They say one of the biggest misconceptions people have about drug trafficking is that its a non-violent offense.
“All of our gun crime is related to drug crime, and they go hand in hand,” said Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin. “In our opinion, the traffickers are bringing this heroin to our community. They’re preying on the weakest people in our community. They kill more people than our murderers ever do.”
“Four years in prison might seem harsh for a young man and his very first offense, but we have to get the drugs and the guns off the streets, and today’s case stands as an example for that,” said assistant prosecutor Frank Bruzzese.
The types of guns investigators are finding during drug raids are troubling as well: assault riffles and ammunition that is designed to shoot through walls and penetrate police vests. The majority of which are illegal and/or stolen.
“(They have the guns) either to protect the drugs that they have or to protect their turf. When you look at the shots fired calls (in Steubenville), those are always drug related gang related,” said Hanlin.
The gangs and drug traffickers are recruiting younger and younger runners with the promise of them being protected by juvenile court’s lesser punishments.
“So if you come into town with your money and your jewelry and your clothes and your cars and you offer these kids money to run some heroin for you, often times they’re sucked in by the money,” Hanlin said.
“But a young man has to make a choice,” Bruzzese added. “The young man can’t chose to pick up the drugs and pick up the gun and lead the gang lifestyle, because that ends up in prison.”
Prosecutor Hanlin agrees that we cannot arrest our way out of this heroin epidemic. However, they treat the addicted versus the heroin traffickers very differently.
Differentiating between the traffickers and addicts was the focus of a change of plea and sentencing hearing in Jefferson County Tuesday, that assistant prosecutor Bruzzese alluded to.
DeAndre Boone will spend the next four years in prison after he was caught with heroin, cocaine, and a gun, not once, but on four separate occasions. Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller, had stern words for Boone.
“The heroin epidemic that is talked about all over this county, specifically in Ohio and Jefferson County– there has been no evidence or any information at all presented to the court that you, yourself Mr. Boone, have a drug problem. So in the court’s determination, you simply are peddling poison on the streets and putting it out there for others to overdose on, become an addict, and become a strain on the resources that we not only have in this county but in this state,” said Miller.
One of Boone’s trafficking offenses had a school specification because he was caught selling near Harding Middle School.