NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Building a wall isn’t all about the people

The principle behind building a wall along the Mexican border is not only to prevent people from entering the U.S. illegally, it is also to reduce the more than $200 billion in illegal drugs that pour into our country each year.

A New York Times report last year said drug overdose deaths in 2016 topped 64,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the U.S. The Times found that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. In our war against drugs, some may think we have raised the white flag and conceded defeat by primarily focusing on tending to the victims of addiction. The epidemic of opioid addiction, extensive consequences of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illegal substances, plus the troubling frequency of shootings in Fort Wayne are all related to the local drug trade.

So it is encouraging to hear about a statewide initiative to help prevent drugs from entering our communities.

At a Tuesday morning news conference at the Allen County Sheriff’s office in the Allen County Courthouse, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced that the Sheriff’s Department and the Fort Wayne Police Department will receive $50,000 each for that purpose.

“If we stop the drugs,” Fort Wayne police chief Steve Reed said at the news conference, “it helps stop the violence.” reporter Kevin Kilbane reported that Hill said the funds are from a $1.25 million grant to the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association through a program that creates eight interdiction teams around the state, whose goal will be to stop drugs from entering communities in their areas.

Increased drug abuse has resulted in more and more efforts to provide treatment for people suffering from addiction, even providing needle exchanges to prevent disease. But, Hill said, communities seem to have drifted away from doing as much to prevent drugs from entering their area, and he believes that should be the primary focus.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards agreed, saying at the news conference, “If we can prevent drugs from ever hitting the streets, then we don’t need the treatment.”

The funds will be used to buy vehicles, equipment and drug-detection dogs to go after drug suppliers and dealers. Kilbane reported that Sheriff David Gladieux and city Deputy Police Chief James Feasel, who is in charge of the Vice and Narcotics and the Gang and Violent Crimes units, said Tuesday that both local departments will use existing officers in the new initiative.

This “shot in the arm” to provide additional resources, as Hill described the grant, is another significant section in the “wall” being constructed to keep drugs out of our community. Let’s keep building.