Local police discuss human side of addiction
ELYSBURG - Statistics can only tell so much about the story of drug abuse in America. It's the human element that opens others' eyes to the toll addiction can have on a user and a family.
A story about a well-to-do girl stealing her mother's jewelry to feed her heroin addiction caught the attention of the 60-plus people who attended a police presentation Wednesday at Elysburg Fire Company.
The girl sold the jewelry - tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry passed from one generation of the family to the next - for pennies on the dollar, and she wound up in state prison.
Ralpho Township Patrolman Chris Grow, Sunbury Patrolman Travis Bremigen and Locust Township Patrolman Chris Snyder all stressed that addiction to heroin, pills and crystal meth is spreading throughout Northumberland and Columbia counties.
'In every household'
Grow began working in narcotics about three years ago. He often got tipped off to who was dealing pot locally. Those tips have changed. Now it's frequently about who's selling heroin.
"It's in every household. No one can tell me they don't know one person that they're related to or friends with" who are involved with drugs, Grow said. "It's everywhere."
A typical glassine packet of heroin, about 3/10 of a gram, was selling on the street for between $20 and $25 five years ago, Bremigen said. A bundle, 10 to 12 of the packets sold in bulk, had cost between $160 and $200. That same packet is now sold for $4 and the bundle for $40, he said.
"It's so readily available it's ridiculous," Bremigen said.
Perhaps more accessible is prescription narcotics, available free of charge in many medicine cabinets. Teenagers have taken a growing liking to pills, Bremigen said, which some crush and snort.
Snyder spoke of methamphetamine addiction, a problem exposed in Berwick, Catawissa and surrounding areas but hardly contained to Columbia County. Bremigen said an uptick in its use is expected locally.
"It's in our area and it's here to stay due to it being so cheap to make," Snyder said.
"A lot of labs pop up. A lot are from people who smell something funny and they alert us," he said of the strong chemical odor associated with cooking crystal meth.
Five ODs weekly
The three officers sought to inform the crowd on the drugs' physical and mental effects, what the drugs look like and how they're packaged, types of paraphernalia, associated slang terms and what signs to look for if someone is using or overdosed.
Photos taken by Grow of drugs repackaged for sale on the street were displayed on a projection screen. One photo showed an estimated 800 glassine packets of heroin, paraphernalia and $2,000 in cash. The bust was made locally in November. Had it not occurred, Grow estimated it would have been sold in as little as two days.
Prior to the meeting, Grow said on average there's five heroin overdoses reported weekly.
"The people that are using in these towns, they're local," Grow said. "The problem here is the people bringing it here."
He cited the arrest of Juan Carlos Alvarez, 28, of Hazleton, currently incarcerated in Lackawanna County Prison, who, at the time of his arrest in September, was charged with bringing at least $2 million of drugs into Pennsylvania since 2012.