Examining the Impact of Big Drug Bust on a Small Pennsylvania Town


In the 40-year-old drug war, the descent of 200 law enforcement officers on the little city of Clairton, Pa., a year ago was barely a skirmish. For that town of 6,800, it was a big deal, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the first of a series. Part of a 42-person roundup of accused cocaine dealers, “This case, for the first time ever in this community, allowed us to remove the people who were bringing large amounts of drugs in,” said Clairton Police Sgt. Joe Giles.

The city went on to have, in 2011, what Police Chief Robert Hoffman described as “a horrible year” in terms of violent crime. Its civic leaders are struggling, with limited resources, to take the next steps to build on progress made in the roundup. While some career criminals were taken off the streets, so were some people who had worked legal jobs and were well-liked in their community. As with many criminal cases, incarceration has yanked pillars of support from some families. The local drug market, meanwhile, endures.

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