Heroin use is a disturbing new trend on the rise in the city of Berea, according to Berea Police Chief David Gregory.
Gregory outlined some of the strategies the police department is using to combat this growing problem at Tuesday's city council meeting.
“It’s a very dangerous drug, so I want to make you all aware as a community,” Gregory said.
County Coroner and EMS Director Jimmy Cornelison alerted the Madison County Fiscal Court of the heroin-use problem during its February 12 meeting.
The local EMS has treated more heroin overdoses in the past three or four months than ever before, assistant EMS director Carlos Coyle said after the meeting.
“There for a while, we never saw heroin in our county, but it’s here now,” he said.
One strategy the BPD is using to combat heroin is the use of a “street crimes unit” focused on thefts and drugs, Gregory said. By putting foot patrols in areas with high crime rates for thefts and targeting known drug dealers in the community, he hopes to eliminate the problem, he said.
“The heroin is traveling down Interstate 75 from Detroit and making its presence in our community,” he said. The drug can be very cheap and very addicting, he added.
“The officers are working very diligently to try to stop this; they’re concerned with their community, they care about it,” Gregory said. “We’re actually trying to take the drug dealer’s money and seize their property and do the best that we can to stop this from coming into our community.”
On a related note, the city adopted first reading of an ordinance allowing the police department to participate in an area drug task force.
The city was part of a drug task force in 2008, but it was disbanded last year because of lack of funding and participation. But, it’s back again with a grant through the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Gregory said.
The city of Berea will join Winchester, Clark County, Jackson County, Madison County and Irvine in the task force. Richmond is involved in another drug task force out of Lexington, he said.
“It’s a good thing. (It) provides a lot of asset forfeitures, hopefully to our police department,” he said. “I know when we were on it, federally we got about $40,000 in our drug account.”
Last week the police department did a search of Madison Southern High School using their newest recruit, the K-9 unit Panko, Gregory said.
“I think there was some illegal narcotics that were found. The school handled it along with the SRO (school resource officer),” he said.
The new K-9 unit has done very well since he joined the force, Gregory said. He has participated in a lot of drug seizures. In 2012, police conducted almost 2,000 more traffic stops than in 2011 using Panko.
“He’s been very proactive in stopping drugs,” he said.
The chief also urged those interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch program to call 986-8456 or check out the city's website www.bereaky.gov to learn how (click on "For Residents" and "Police Department").
“So as a citizen then, I probably should be more active in terms of observing my neighborhood and reporting suspicious behavior that I see,” said council member Virgil Burnside.