The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 15, 2013

The abyss

— Let’s give a hearty shout-out to Wyoming County law enforcement — Sheriff’s Department, West Virginia State Police and Pineville Police Department, in conjunction with the Southern Violent Crime and Drug Task Force — for their outstanding work in rounding up a motley collection of users and dealers in a drug sweep that began Friday.

Armed with warrants for 37 people and detailing more than 100 offenses, the officers fanned out across the county and, as of Monday, had taken 29 of the offenders into custody.

As Sheriff Randall Aliff told our Wyoming County Bureau Chief, the sweep was a long time coming — in this case, more than a year — but if you want the charges to stick, that’s the way it has to be.

While law enforcement appreciates each and every tip they receive from the public pointing them in the direction of a suspect, they simply can’t walk up to that suspect and make an arrest. The evidence that proves the suspect is, in fact, a user or dealer must be ironclad, and able to stand up in court.

We all get impatient, but this is the way it must be.

We know every police officer, every prosecutor, every judge in West Virginia is working hard every day to rid our state of this scourge that holds so many in its grip.

But it will take more, much more, to bring it to its knees.

We need better laws that hold the feet of the dealers to the fire, ensuring they can’t wiggle out of their arrest.

We need more treatment centers so that, early on in their addiction, users can get the counseling and other help that can break the steely bonds of the drugs.

We need to be able to weed out the doctors who pander to the dealers and the users, those few who, by their very actions, harm the patients they are intended, entrusted to heal. They, too, need to pay for their role in this deadly battle.

We need to put the best minds of our state — and, yes, those from inside our nation’s borders and from outside — to find the solution to this problem.

For without it, the lives of thousands will continue their dark slide into the abyss formed by addiction.