Editorial: Drug arrests a step in the right direction

Former DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen sure knows how to make an exit.

On his last day as chief, DeKalb Police conducted Operation Safe Streets with the purpose of arresting 30 alleged drug dealers and users.

In a Friday Northern Star article, DeKalb Police Lt. Gary Spangler said Operation Safe Streets is complete. The Northern Star editorial board applauds this, and we want to make it clear we are in support of any action that can make DeKalb a better place to live and learn.

However, we believe any operation aimed at cleaning up the city is far from complete. In a place like DeKalb, which seems to be located both in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of everything, as a college town located fairly close to both Chicago and Rockford, drugs will continue to be a problem. That is, unless both NIU and DeKalb Police continue to take proactive measures against what some perceive as a growing problem.

While 30 arrests at once seems like an accomplishment, one obvious question remains. Where do we go from here? Understandably, in a small-town setting like DeKalb, the sheer number of arrests made throughout the weekend is impressive. However, sweeps like these must become a regularity if the police departments hope to keep a handle on drug activity within the city. Periodic sweeps, while effective for putting a dent in the city’s illicit drug supply, at least for a short while, are simply not enough.

DeKalb is not as safe as city, university and law enforcement officials would lead us to believe. According to the 2010 DeKalb Police annual report, aggravated assault and battery increased from 92 incidents to 127 incidents, an increase of 38 percent. Controlled substance arrests also increased between 2009 and 2010 from 30 incidents to 87 incidents, an increase of 130 percent. We realize arrests resulting from drug stings are simply one step of many toward a cleaner, safer DeKalb. However, unless these arrests have a clear long-term impact on improving safety in DeKalb, the editorial board feels that DeKalb Police, as well as the university and its police department, must develop a clear plan of action to show the community that it is as dedicated to the safety of the city as it claims to be.