When it comes to fighting drug trafficking, our police agencies will always find themselves at a disadvantage for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is a merely pragmatic reason: Money. According to one report by the RAND Corporation, in 2016 alone, it is estimated that spending on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine by Americans reached nearly $150 billion. The spending nationally pales in comparison to that. For example, the Trump Administration requested a total of $35.1 billion for the National Drug Control Budget.

Police often find themselves outnumbered and outgunned when it comes to drug trafficking. A $150 billion industry is not going to simply leave to chance its operation. Those in the industry will spare little to no expense hiring the people necessary and arming them adequately to protect their trade.

And there’s the matter of the laws, ethics and rules by which police must abide, lest they become like those on the other side. Despite what you’ve seen on fictional shows about the police, there are a large number of both bureaucratic and ethical concerns which must be addressed before any action is taken against even the most obvious drug trafficker.

With all that in mind, it’s heartening any time we see the end result of investigations — some long-term, some short-term — culminate in the arrest and subsequent prosecution of suspected drug dealers. Recently, we’ve seen police take actions against trafficking — such as the Pike County Sheriff’s Office’s roundup of suspected dealers last week and the joint operation between the Pikeville Police Department and Floyd County Sheriff’s Office which resulted in the arrest of a Pike man for the second time in less than a year and the seizure of a large amount of narcotics.

We cannot prosecutor ourselves out of the drug problem, which has become painfully obvious over the years. But that doesn’t mean we should simply allow those who push poison in our communities to freely operate without interference.

Some say that these types of operations are simply money grabs by the police and courts or that it’s just putting non-violent individuals behind bars.

While an argument can be made that those dealing in cannabis are non-violent offenders, no one who is responsible for dealing in drugs such as methamphetamine, fentanyl or heroin can be considered to be a non-violent criminal. The path of destruction these drugs are cutting through our communities is wide and deep, the lives ruined and ended in the thousands. Each dose someone sells is another potential overdose for the end user.

No, there are no non-violent dealers in these types of hard drugs.

Each time one of these individuals is interrupted, even if just for a little while, from serving as a conduit for death, the community benefits. Some are dealing to support habits. In those cases, the court can facilitate and order treatment alongside incarceration.

Others are just dealing for the financial benefits and there is incarceration for those individuals.

The “War on Drugs” is ultimately a losing battle. There will always be a market for illicit substances. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, that we shouldn’t attempt to cut off the flow of these deadly substances in an attempt to save lives.

We say thanks to the local police agencies on the front line of this battle, risking everything, out-funded, outgunned and outmanned, attempting to make a difference, to save lives and bring the guilty to some semblance of justice.

Keep fighting the good fight, keep saving lives, keep making a difference.

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