The war on drugs is taking many forms these days in West Virginia.
“We have to a multi-pronged attack to this problem. We can’t just round up 40 people and expect that the problem is going to go away,” said Bill Ihlenfeld, the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Northern District. “We have to go about it with different methods.”
Ihlenfeld said the Mountaineer Highway Interdiction Team has had success the past few years in curbing drug trafficking on the highways.
Drug-fighting partnerships have also been formed with other states and the four-county region in the Northern Panhandle has recently been designated a “high-intensity drug trafficking” area, which means more federal dollars will be available to support the work of law enforcement officers.
He said parts of the Northern Panhandle have seen a lot of drug activity. Just a few weeks ago, officers broke up a pocket of drug activity in Hancock County that involved pills and cocaine. “We did a round up and charged a total of 40 people,” Ihlenfeld said.
The Eastern Panhandle is also a growing concern, he said, because of heroin that’s coming into the Mountain State from Baltimore. “Baltimore may be the heroin capitol of the United States, and a lot of it ends up on the streets of Martinsburg,” said Ihlenfeld.
He repeated claims that drugs create a host of spillover crimes.
“We’re seeing more home invasions and robberies,” said Ihlenfeld, who attributes those growing numbers to people trying to fuel their addictions.
In addition to the federal efforts, he said the Legislature is taking steps to better treat addicts and law enforcement officers are spending more time talking to school students to keep them from starting to use drugs.
“As we speak, we are building cases against individuals who are on the radar that we know are involved,” Ihlenfeld said. “We try to build a big enough case so that we make an impact. We don’t want someone arrested and getting out in six months.
“We have to try different methods. Going after the sources and send a message that in West Virginia we do have a strong law enforcement.”