IN DEPTH: Repeat Offenders Cause Cycle of Crime

LOGAN, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- WSAZ.com is taking an in-depth look at the repeat offender problem: criminals who continue committing crimes with little to no consequences.

Like most towns, Logan, W.Va., is no stranger to crime, and many of the criminals still walk the streets.

“They continue to break into people's houses. They continue to prey on the weak,” Logan resident Richard Ojeda said.

Ojeda loves his hometown, but also says it's full of repeat offenders -- something that's easy to blame on police.

“It's a never ending battle for us,” Logan Police Chief E.K. Harper said.

Harper says they make arrests all the time, but their work can only go so far.

“Sixty percent or better of all our charges get dismissed, and it's very frustrating for police officers,” Harper said.

So WSAZ.com went to magistrate court to talk to a judge about how that's determined.

Magistrate Dwight Williamson says a lot of it has to do with the proof written in the complaint.

Another issue, though, is people going to jail and immediately getting out on bond.

“We set 100,000 dollar bonds on drug dealers -- cash only. And guess what? People show up with the money,” Williamson said.

And for those who do serve time many times?

“Clearly jail isn't working,” Williamson said.

Williamson says it's the law that needs to change -- giving magistrates more power when people first start committing crimes.

"We should be able to say, 'You have a potential problem. I want to order you to a drug rehab facility.’ ” Williamson said.

As for criminals already familiar with the system -- “You do the crime, you should pay the time.

Getting a slap on the wrist only tells others they're free to do that as well,” Ojeda said.

Last year alone, Logan County’s court system dealt with more than 1,000 felony charges and more than 2,000 misdemeanors. That's where you get into the issue of money.

The more people who go to jail, the higher the jail bill is, and increasing that would mean cutting other important services like the fire department and ambulance services.

Also, jails in southern West Virginia are already full, so finding room for other offenders isn't always possible.


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