Pubdate: Fri, 28 Apr 2006
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Copyright: 2006 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Dwight Ott, Inquirer Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Killer heroin claimed another life yesterday in Camden.

The fatal overdose was at least the 12th in Philadelphia, South  
Jersey and Delaware in two weeks.

It was one of five overdoses reported in Camden from heroin that  
authorities believe was mixed with fentanyl, a powerful surgical  

The 23-year-old Gibbstown woman was found about 12:30 p.m in the 600  
block of State Street in North Camden in the back of a vacant, fire- 
damaged building, Camden Police Capt. Joseph Richardson said. The  
victim, whose name was not released, was pronounced dead at 1:45 p.m.

"The heroin bags found in the area were labeled 'Dbloc,' " Richardson  

Four other overdoses were reported between 3 and 4:30 p.m. - two at  
Seventh Street and Kaighn Avenue in South Camden and two at Seventh  
and Cedar Street in North Camden.

Richardson said that one of those overdose patients taken to the  
hospital had briefly died but that paramedics revived him.

Oscar Hernandez of My Brother's Keeper, a drug-rehabilitation program  
in Camden, said he had heard that the overdoses had spread to  
Delaware and Maryland.

One of those familiar with the North Camden trade is Wanda Martinez,  
44, who saw the Gibbstown victim just before the woman died.

"She came out of the store," Martinez said. "She was very, very high."

She said the woman had been with a man who also appeared high.

"I told him to take her under the tree where there was shade because  
she didn't look like she could be under the sun's rays," Martinez  
said. "They had bought ices at the corner store. ... She told her  
boyfriend, 'Honey, I don't feel good.' "

Hernandez said the man left before police arrived.

"Somebody just lost their baby," said Richardson, who noted that his  
daughter was about the same age as the victim. "We've put out a news  
release, telling people, 'Don't come to Camden to buy drugs.' "

Federal, county and local law enforcement officials were  
investigating, he said. In the past, Richardson said, some residents  
suggested setting up blockades to keep suburban buyers from fueling  
Camden's drug trade, but he said that would be unconstitutional.

Sister Helen Cole, who ministers the streets of North Camden, said  
nothing seemed to stop the drug trade, not even deaths. Former  
dealers and current addicts have said reports of powerful heroin only  
attract more trade.

"Heroin is a terrible addiction," Sister Helen said, standing outside  
her home near Fifth and State Streets, a block from where the latest  
victim was found. "That's because people need it just to be normal."

She said the Camden heroin trade usually peaked between 6 and 8 a.m.  
as the "drug seekers" headed to work. Other drugs, such as marijuana  
and crack, are sold at the end of the day or on weekends, she said.

"They get diarrhea and start vomiting, but once they get the heroin,  
they're normal again," Sister Helen said. "When they take that  
heroin, they feel so much better. They can go to work and be  

She said the attraction was the high, but later it's just a matter of  

Sister Helen said that since police had started confiscating buyers'  
cars, the customers, many of them young suburbanites, parked on State  
Street and walked around the corner to make purchases near Fifth and  

"The need to do drugs is so desperate," she said, "but it's also  
about money."
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