The punishment should fit the crime in these cases

Drug overdoses have surpassed traffic accidents as the leading cause of death in Ohio. What a sad – but true – statement.

So far this year, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol, 587 people have died in traffic accidents, but the Ohio Department of Health estimates that four people per day are dying from drug-related overdoses.

And Columbiana County has not been left out of this growing trend. While we have logged 10 traffic fatalities so far this year, 18 drug-related deaths have been confirmed by the county coroner’s office, as of Aug. 13. In 2012, we had 14 traffic fatalities and 16 drug-related deaths.

Fortunately, this is far from the county record of 69 overdose deaths reached in 2007, which was followed by 67 such deaths the following year. After that, the number returned to normal levels over the next four years but now we’re seeing an increase in drug deaths again.

The scourge of drug abuse, and heroin addiction in particular, is taking its toll on our county in more ways than just fatal overdoses. The quest for money to buy drugs is the motivation for the majority of our theft and burglary cases, and it’s also at the root of many violent crimes.

That’s why we agree with Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble in asking for lengthy prison sentences for those convicted of drug charges.

“Foremost on a lot of people’s minds is heroin is killing a lot of kids. It’s killing a lot of adults,” Gamble said asking for severe punishment for people convicted of drug offenses, “especially when they are found to have it in large quantities.”

While beefing up jail sentences won’t stop the problem entirely, it may help by getting the key perpetrators off the street and slowing the drug traffic at least temporarily.

It’s difficult to hope that drug dealers can be rehabilitated, but maybe the thought of a lengthy jail sentence will act as a deterrent. Sentencing drug dealers to the maximum allowed should be standard procedure in our courts.