BY REMOVING 22 suspected drug dealers from downtown Wilkes-Barre last week, city police scored a win – albeit temporary – for the "good guys."
The officers involved in "Operation Square Deal," a five-month investigation that culminated Friday in the arrests of nearly three dozen people, including 10 alleged drug users, deserve thanks and praise for conducting this street sweep. Credit, in particular, goes to the patrol officers who frequent the Public Square area and who reportedly propelled the effort, establishing it as a priority. Nice work.
That's not to overlook the gall – or stupidity – of drug pushers who set up shop in this vicinity. The tract includes a public school, City Hall and the police headquarters. Not an especially observant or well-read bunch, the alleged perpetrators supposedly conducted their illegal trade in broad daylight beneath the city's much-publicized Hawkeye Security surveillance cameras.
No doubt, visitors to the city's hub this week will feel more secure without so many people skulking on street corners. Regrettably, the situation probably won't last. A new crop of criminals – either desperate or dumb, or both – will drift toward the territory, trying to fill the void and the unyielding demand. Or they'll set up "shop" nearby.
The only antidote is a concerned community – people like you who won't tolerate this kind of activity where you live and work. And where you raise your children.
The drug scourge remains a community problem that requires a community response.
If you witness suspicious activity, report it to police. If you have the inclination, get involved with the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch Coalition or join a Guardian Angels patrol. If you know someone with a drug dependency, guide them toward a treatment program. If you've conquered a habit, stay the course!
Just as important: If you are raising a child, teach him or her the benefits of a drug-free lifestyle. There's always room in the ranks for one more "good guy."
• Suspect illegal drug activity? Call 91 1 or, for Wilkes-Barre incidents, use the online Wilkes-Barre Crimeline, accessible at www.wbcrimeline.com.
• Find area drug-treatment programs. Call Help Line at 1-888-829-1341. Or visit www.helpline-nepa.info.
• Get advice on raising drug-free kids. Visit www.theantidrug.com.
• Learn about drug-prevention strategies from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, an Alexandria, Va.-based organization. Go to www.cadca.org.