Finding a way to stem the ‘pipeline’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2010

How do you stop something that can’t be seen? How do you measure something that is intangible?

That is the quandary facing law enforcement. The buzz phrase “Route 23 Pipeline” has officially re-emerged.

The phrase is getting tossed around again after the Ohio State Highway Patrol made several big arrests on this north-south highway that runs through our region.

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On Aug. 13, two men were arrested on their way to Huntington, W.Va., with 154 grams of crack cocaine. Two separate stops the two weeks prior netted more than 120 grams of crack.

Arrests like these have become a regular occurrence.

This is a serious problem facing our entire region as these types of drugs continue to roll down this proverbial pipeline.

Ask anyone in law enforcement or the criminal justice system and they will be quick to tell you that much of the region’s drug problems stem from out-of-state, big-city drug dealers coming to the Tri-State.

Talking with Cabell County, W.Va., Prosecutor Chris Chiles recently illustrated this perfectly.

Chiles has seen this problem from the front lines.

Heroin is coming in from Columbus. Crack is brought from Detroit. Pills are transported from Florida.

Of course drugs come from other areas too but there is a direct flow from these cities, Chiles said.

Why are the coming here? The answer is simple math. There is plenty of demand but not nearly as much supply.

Drug dealers from Detroit can bring their product and make as much as six times the profit that they would at home, Chiles said.

Considering many of these drug dealers are making thousands in profits to start with, multiplying that by five or six is an powerful draw.

Plus, another factor, Chiles said, is that guns are a little easier to come by here in the Tri-State than they are in the big cities. Dealers can take guns back with them and turn a much larger profit too.

So how should law enforcement tackle this problem to stem the flow of drugs from outside the borders of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia? That is the million dollar question — quite literally — that everyone has an opinion on but no one has a definitive solution.

There likely isn’t a magic-bullet answer because this may be a problem without a solution.

Of course more police — on our highways, in our communities and undercover in the drug scene — would be a good start.

Also, there has to be a commitment to rehabilitation programs to help get people off drugs and keep them that way.

The longtime attorney from West Virginia says that criminal behavior becomes a vicious cycle within families and that he has prosecuted three generations of criminals.

“Less than 10 percent of the people commit 90 to 95 percent of the crime,” Chiles said.

Now the rest us in that 90 percent of law abiding citizens have to figure out a way to have a true majority rule.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at