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June 7, 2012
Morning Journal News


Lloyd Berresford wrote you this week complaining that scrap thieves recently stole brass flag holders from a cemetery and charcoal grills from Scenic Vista Park in Lisbon.

Mr. Berresford is justifiably outraged by the selfish acts of a few lowlifes. The writer, however, misses the mark when he blames "apologetic liberals" for their soft treatment by the justice system. And then he further confuses his readers with a digression into government regulations and economic theory.

As a career law enforcement officer and the chief of police in Leetonia, I contend daily with matters of drug addiction and the various theft crimes that follow. Until recently, our judges exercised broad authority to deal with these felony offenders. Judges used to have the discretion to sentence offenders to prison when, in their view, it was necessary. On the other hand, judges could use less restrictive means of punishment when the circumstances called for it.

Our current state legislature, however, took away the courts' discretion in sentencing and passed a law mandating probation for all first-time felony five and felony four non-violent criminals. As a proud law enforcement officer, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to investigate a case and bring the perpetrator to justice only to see the judge shake his head recognizing he has no other option but to give the defendant probation. I know it has to be frustrating for judges, too.

So, to Mr. Berresford I say yes, our communities face a crisis with scrap and precious metal thieves. Trust me, I know. But let us stay on point. This legislature has been a bitter disappointment to those of us interested in punishing criminals. We work hard every day for our law-abiding citizens but when we needed help from the current legislature they helped the scrap thieves.

John Soldano

Leetonia police chief



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