Police union leader urges action from city officials

STEUBENVILLE – The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1 warned Monday afternoon the city is facing, “a long, hot summer this year.”

“Violent crimes are at an all-time high and the FOP feels this is a direct effect from the decrease of manpower. In past years the Steubenville police department was staffed with 50 police officers and four dispatchers. Through layoffs and attrition, the department is now operating with 38 officers and three dispatchers, a 30 percent decrease in manpower,” Jim Marquis said.

City Manager Cathy Davison said Monday afternoon city officials and residents should direct their request for help to the Jefferson County judges.

“It is time for our judges to hand down the maximum sentences to convicted criminals and send a strong message to drug dealers,” said Davison.

“In light of budget cuts, the police department has not received any cuts in the current budget. We are also in the process of hiring a police officer for a position that was vacant and is included in the 2013 city budget. We are also working on collaborating with other law enforcement agencies in the area to combat the crime in our city. We applaud the police department for their courage, investigation and quick response to the recent shootings,” Davison said.

According to Marquis, “The city is plagued with out-of-town, gun-carrying drug dealers and gang members who take full advantage of the limited police on the city streets. What has to happen before our city leaders act? In the past week alone four individuals have been hit by gun fire in this city, and one of the individuals has died. On Saturday, two young police officers were fired upon by an 18-year-old robbery suspect.”

An 18-year-old city man was arrested Saturday afternoon following an alleged robbery and a running gun battle with city police.

It is the second shooting in two days in the LaBelle neighborhood.

On Friday afternoon, one man was killed and another wounded during a shooting incident on Pittsburgh Street.

Three Chicago men have been arrested in connection with that shooting.

“It’s time to re-evaluate the necessity of city job positions before we are mourning the loss of one of our own or an innocent child playing near his house killed by a stray bullet fired between two gang-banging drug dealers,” Marquis said.

“Already this year law enforcement from Jefferson County and surrounding counties have linked five drug overdose death investigations to heroin purchases made from within the city. The heroin problem in the area is at an epidemic high, and a large portion of the heroin is sold in Steubenville by out-of-town drug dealers,” Marquis said.

Marquis cited several cases involving weapons since Jan. 1, including:

Jan. 5, two males shot at while at the Steubenville Marina;

Jan. 8, seven shots fired from moving vehicle in area of Carnegie and Orgeon avenues;

Jan. 12, two shots fired during a fight on Jefferson Street;

Jan. 15, a Sherman Avenue house was shot at five times;

Jan. 16, a pizza delivery driver robbed at gun point on Oakmont Avenue;

Jan. 21, three males with guns threatening residents on Park Street;

Jan. 26, attempted robbery at gun point on Pennsylvania Avenue;

Jan. 30, two men shot and killed in the parking lot of Heritage Place apartments;

Feb. 2, man fired several shots on Park Street and was arrested;

March 3, man was waving a gun in the Club 106 parking lot;

March 11, man fled on foot and was arrested after throwing down a gun;

April 14, man shot on Oak Grove Avenue;

April 16, one man shot on Lincoln Avenue;

April 19, Two men shot with one fatality on Orgeon Avenue; and,

April 20, male robbed a female at gun point and then shot at responding officers.

“Our drug task force is working hard. They have recruited officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Marshall Service, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to help curb the city’s drug problem. The county prosecutor is working diligently to prosecute criminals; however, an understaffed police department can only do so much in preparation to prosecute a case before having to move on to the next case,” Marquis said.

“Statements will be made by City Council members that cities our size have a comparable number of officers as our city’s police force. But I will bet you the crime rate in those cities are not comparable to that of Steubenville. I will also bet you those cities do not staff 10 percent more firefighters than police officers. Ask the mayor or council members how many businessmen decided to take their business to other cities due to the spike in recent shootings,” Marquis said.

Marquis called upon city leaders, “to re-evaluate the necessity of city job positions before we are mourning the loss of one of our own or an innocent child playing near his house killed by a stray bullet fired between two gang-banging drug dealers.”

“Drugs are a huge problem. The violence is growing because of the loss of police officers. It is completely out of control today. A good start would be using city safety funds to create a larger police presence on our streets. When we did that before, the calls went down,” he said.

Marquis said he has told his fellow city police officers, “to stay safe and remember your training.”

And he advised city residents to call the police department when they see suspicious activity.

“The F.O.P., along with the law-abiding and hard-working residents of Steubenville, are holding you, our city leaders, responsible for their safety,” declared Marquis.