STEUBENVILLE - Jane Hanlin, Jefferson County prosecutor, was guest speaker during Friday's luncheon meeting of the city Rotary Club at the YWCA on North Fourth Street.
Hanlin painted a forboding picture of the amount of heroin drug trafficking in the city and surrounding area, telling Rotarians there were "thousands" of heroin addicts in Jefferson County. She also described the heroin trafficking connection between Steubenville and Chicago in stark terms.
"You can trace (surrounding crime) back to the heroin trafficking in this area," said Hanlin, adding family, gang and other ties exist between drug dealers in Chicago and Steubenville. "Cocaine and crack cocaine were bad when I became an assistant prosecutor in 2005, but we've never seen anything like the heroin trafficking coming from Chicago. We are the perfect storm for this environment."
DISCUSSION — Jane Hanlin, Jefferson County prosecutor, was guest speaker during the Steubenville Rotary Club’s Friday luncheon meeting at the Steubenville YWCA. -- Mark Miller
Hanlin said the number of heroin addicts in the area and large markets such as Pittsburgh and West Virginia make Steubenville an easy target for heroin traffickers.
"You see it impacting our area," she said. "We have a staggering number of heroin addicts here."
Hanlin said the number of overdose deaths in West Virginia in 2012 was one of the highest in the country, and all people in neighboring counties have to do is cross a bridge to Steubenville to buy the drug. She said the recent spate of shootings and other violence can be traced back to turf wars surrounding the local drug trafficking.
There was some good news, she continued, adding she'd recently been named a federal prosecutor, which she said would help break down the barriers between law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal levels. Hanlin said federal laws regarding drug trafficking tend to be more harsh than state or local laws. She said in the past the different law enforcement entities tended to not work in tandem.
"The people who know that best are the people who traffic heroin," said Hanlin, adding traffickers seek out soft targets.
She added there were 14 local individuals recently busted on a federal conspiracy ring to traffick the drug and more arrests would be forthcoming because of better cooperation among law enforcement agencies.
"It certainly won't solve the heroin problem here, but (it's a start)," she said, adding she wants to send a massage Steubenville no longer is a soft target. "We want to get that message out there."
She said the recent violence tied to trafficking here is giving some the wrong impression, particularly businesses, that want to settle in the Ohio Valley.
"We've has some (business owners) complain they can't find individuals who can pass a drug test," she said. "Many of these individuals began with pills."
As law enforcement began to crack down on pill use many addicts switched to heroin because it was readily available and cheap, Hanlin added.
"(Heroin) is the hardest drug I've ever seen anyone try to quit," Hanlin said, adding inpatient opportunities for addicts in the area were slim, only adding to the problem.
Hanlin said Steubenville and the area still are relatively safe, and drug dealers tend to commit crimes on other drug dealers. She added the area now has the federal clout to sink its teeth into some of the traffickers.
"(Drug dealers) fear federal prosecution more than (local) prosecution," she said.