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County Sets Out to Tackle Heroin Epidemic

Three-Pronged System of Enforcement, Awareness and Education

In response to the recent heroin scare among Long Island teenagers, the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) has not only brought the fight to the streets, but to parents and students as well. 

On April 7, the NCPD hosted the community forum “Too Good for Drugs” at East Meadow High School. The goal was to discuss the county’s new three-pronged approach of enforcement, parental awareness and education. The event also featured a prescription drug drop-off area where expired and unused medications could be anonymously handed over to police.

“We live in one of the best places in the United States but it’s becoming a dangerous place for our kids,” said NCPD Second Deputy Commissioner Bill Flanagan.

Speaking to an approximate crowd of 50 in attendance, Flanagan stated that heroin-related arrests have gone up in the past year, sky-rocketing from 125 in 2008 time frame to 374 in 2009.

Heroin has become increasingly rampant due to its incredibly addictive nature and relatively low price tag – a bag of heroin, said Flanagan, “costs between $5 and $8 – cheaper than a six-pack of beer.”

Flanagan explained that upon snorting or injecting the drug, the body becomes accustomed to its presence in the blood and eventually cannot function at a normal rate once the drug has been filtered out. “It is not a weekend, recreational kind of drug. It is the rest of your life kind of drug,” added Flanagan.

 Around 90 percent of heroin around the world can be traced back to Afghanistan, but the heroin coming across Long Island originates from Central and South America. The drug is generally sold in and around Manhattan and, according to NCPD Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, is “the biggest problem we face here in Nassau County.”

The three-pronged system consisting of enforcement, parental awareness and education in schools will feature a number of tactics to hinder the distribution of heroin while also promoting knowledge of the drug to parents and students. The system is funded entirely through forfeiture funds (money seized from drug arrests) and does not require any money from taxpayers.

According to Flanagan, 30 detectives, along with police officers and K-9 units, have been devoted to street level busts and long-term heroin investigations. The NCPD is also working to patrol the western border of Nassau County with automated license plate readers and check points to reduce the flow of the heroin funneling to Long Island from Manhattan.

“There are no organized distribution networks in Nassau County for heroin, and every time one comes up, we squash it — we put our foot on their necks,” said Flanagan.

As for parental awareness, Mulvey reiterated the importance of parents closely monitoring their children (physical or emotional instability, changes in friend circles, hygiene, habits, etc.) in order to curb any degree of illicit drug abuse.

“The people best situated to identify this problem early on are the parents. If you can intervene early, there are lots of success stories,” said Mulvey.

Mulvey said that parents also must manage medicine cabinets so that no prescription drugs are easily accessible. Many teens are ingesting or selling the pills found in their own homes, he said.

The impacts of heroin education have already become evident in the 12 to 15 schools that have adapted the program offered by the NCPD. The program provides trained educators to speak about the drug throughout the school year for grades kindergarten through 12.  

“Kids that are exposed to this [program] over and over, they get it,” said Mulvey, who added, “There is empirical evidence that those schools and those communities that have opted in to this approach have had much better results than other districts that addressed it in a different way.”