Big Bust Highlights Need For Improvement

Kudos to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for their collaboration over the past several months as they unraveled a bi-coastal drug ring that was allegedly bringing methamphetamine from Mexico through California and then into Western New York.

A bust as big as this one is noteworthy because it closes down a pipeline of Mexican methamphetamine into Chautauqua County. Poison was making its way by mail into our neighborhoods — as Gary Loeffert, special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Buffalo Office, said during a news conference Tuesday, “The men and women arrested today were pushing this unforgiving drug into the Jamestown community knowing it will inevitable destroy the lives of users and their family and friends.”

That is perhaps the most heart-breaking aspect to Tuesday’s story. Each of these 16 lives have gone wrong at some point in time; our region was unable to find the right array of services and help to cure their addiction. While society can’t force people to seek help for addiction, it’s hard to believe any of these people dreamed, when they were children, that their goal in life was to be part of a bi-coastal methamphetamine ring. It is incumbent that everyone involved in creating the addiction treatment infrastructure in our region remembers people like these 16 who fell through the cracks.

Here’s the infuriating part of Tuesday’s story. The majority of the people charged Tuesday were well known to police; it’s not as if this ring was doing a good job flying under the radar. Only two of the 16 people charged haven’t faced charges over the past couple of years. One of the men charged had been charged less than two months ago with assaulting a woman and, when police served a search warrant on the man’s Anderson Street home, they reportedly found a .22 caliber rifle, methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and cash. Another of the men had been charged had been jailed in early April after a raid of his Baker Street home revealed crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, drug paraphernalia, along with two hand guns and five long guns. Another of the men charged Tuesday had been charged in December in relation to a shooting on Barrett Avenue in which he and another man allegedly entered a home occupied by five people, — including a 4- and 2-year old — and fired shots. Another of the men has been involved in several methamphetamine busts in recent years.

Again, kudos to police for breaking up this drug ring. One has to wonder how some of these people were on the street to be charged this week. The charges they faced were serious and, obviously, they had no compunction about violating their release conditions to participate in an alleged drug ring. They thought nothing of putting other people in harm’s way and profited from selling substances that can kill their neighbors.

Our society must do a better job of identifying and helping those suffering from addiction; but it must protect honest, hard-working people, too.