Earlier this week in Wheeling, Bill Ihlenfeld, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, announced the formation of a multi-jurisdictional task force that will focus on stopping the flow of drugs into the Northern Panhandle.

M-HIT (the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team) is a joint effort between the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the West Virginia State Police, the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department and the Wheeling Police Department.

The federal, state and local agencies agreed to assign resources, developed a Memorandum of Understanding and appointed a coordinator to direct the program.

According to Ihlenfeld, law enforcement personnel will hone in on drug trafficking on highways, in airports and at bus terminals. They have targeted major supply locations in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and will try to impede the flow of both prescription drugs and heroin from those metropolitan areas into the Mountain State.

Other, similar programs in the Northern District are planned for both north-central West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle.

We think the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, R. Booth Goodwin II, should follow Ihlenfeld’s example.

Interstate 77 is already part of the “Pillbilly Highway,” linking Appalachia to the out-of-control black market for prescription drugs being operated in the state of Florida. And with Florida’s elected leaders apparently unwilling to stop the pill mills, the already deadly consequences being suffered throughout our region are only going to continue to grow.

West Virginia needs to take the lead on this issue at our southern borders by mirroring what is being done in the Ohio Valley and molding it into an effective interdiction effort from Bluefield to Beckley to Charleston to Huntington. Points east, starting near White Sulphur Springs and running west to the junction just south of Beckley, and north, from Flatwoods through Nicholas and Fayette counties to the intersection of the turnpike just north of Beckley, are also critical routes that need more monitoring.

Stepping up enforcement along these corridors to curtail drug trafficking is a no-brainer. It certainly won’t solve all the trouble, but it can cut deeply into it.

Pooling resources and working together isn’t a new law enforcement concept; it’s just a matter of getting on the same page, setting egos aside and sharing the responsibility of helping to rid our communities of drugs and drug dealers.

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