Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


July 7, 2014

Crime wave — Spike in violent offenses alarming

— A man on a bicycle pedals to a local bank drive-through window in Bluefield, brandishes a firearm and demands cash from a bank teller. A man wearing a black ski mask and a neon green beanie to conceal his head and face walks into a local department store, heads to the pharmacy area and hands a pharmacist a note indicating he is armed and demands oxycodone pills.

A man walks into a local convenience station near Richlands, Va., brandishes a firearm at two store employees and demands money from the workers. He then flees the store with a black garbage bag full of money. A 24-year-old man is assaulted in his home in McDowell County on the Fourth of July by two male assailants who break his front window, smash a television inside of the house and beat the victim, who later tells police he doesn’t want to file charges against the two suspects.

Four people are arrested after authorities discover a “shake-and-bake” meth lab on the back porch of an apartment building in Princeton. And this occurs only weeks after a man in McDowell County is arrested for allegedly operating an active meth lab on a bicycle.

A 19-year-old Princeton man is arrested and charged in connection with a string of breaking and enterings that have occurred over the past several weeks in the Quail Valley and Shenandoah estates. And vehicles parked outside of Bowen Field in Bluefield are targeted by what police call “smash and grab” thieves looking for cash and other valuables.

At this point, it is probably safe to call what we have seen in recent weeks and days as a mini-crime wave across the region. And most of the offenses have occurred in the days and weeks leading up to the Fourth of July weekend. Several of the suspects  — including the man who held up the Kmart pharmacy — are still at large.

There is no known common denominator  or connection  between the crimes, although money and drugs have primarily been the items taken. But it is the very nature of the crimes — and just how far the criminals are willing to go — that is of particular concern. It takes a desperate man, after all, to rob a bank on a bicycle, and to walk into a department store wearing a ski mask with the intent of robbing a pharmacy inside of the store. The individual who robbed Kmart had to walk past the cash registers, clothing and jewelry departments wearing the mask before even reaching the store pharmacy.

Unfortunately, when you start digging and peeling away the layers of individual crimes, you will often find a drug-related connection. And across our region the illegal abuse of prescription narcotics remains rampant.

We don’t know why the area has seen such a sudden spike in armed robberies, meth labs and other related crimes. But it is our hope that law enforcement officials will be successful in locating the perpetrators and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law.

Keeping our communities safe — and drug free — is of utmost importance.


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