Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jun 2011
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2011 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Jack Encarnacao, The Patriot Ledger


Prosecution and Jail No Longer Seen As Effective Deterrents

QUINCY - On a blackboard in the drug unit's office at Quincy police
headquarters, detectives have scribbled a grid of license plate
numbers, vehicle types and names. These are the people the unit is
building cases against for dealing drugs, mostly heroin and OxyContin.

Their stated goal is to make it as difficult as possible for these
people to deal in Quincy. Eradicating them altogether is beyond what
the eight-person team can be expected to achieve on its own, unit head
Lt. Patrick Glynn said.

"Individual communities, the best you can do is dispersion, meaning
(the drugs) are going to go into another community," he said. "But
that's not solving the problem. It's just going around in a circle."

As for users, police and prosecutors are increasingly looking to force
them into treatment programs rather than charge them and put them in

There's a simple reason for this, Glynn said. He said despite drug
arrests "skyrocketing" -- his unit made 303 arrests in 2010 compared
with 236 in 2009 -- overdoses have persisted at a steady clip.

"Arrests alone are not going to solve the drug problem," Glynn said.
"We've acknowledged that."

Instead, police are focusing on rehabilitative measures.

Prosecutors and police often offer busted users the opportunity to
avoid charges if they attend rehab. Quincy officers carry Narcan in
their cruisers, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opiate
overdose. Since January, the department has used it to save 23
overdose victims.

Quincy's drug unit keeps a log of each overdose they respond to,
noting the name and address of the victim. This way, if they encounter
the same person again, they can build a case for a substance-abuse
petition to the court. If granted by a judge, the petitions
essentially force a person to attend rehab.

Even if police wanted to, charging every heroin or opiate addict
police encounter with a crime would be a thorny legal

Police need to recover actual drugs to charge someone with possession,
and test results from syringes aren't admissible as evidence, Glynn
said. By the time police arrive at an overdose scene, drugs like
heroin or pills have already been injected or ingested.

For overdose victims simply rushed to the emergency room, sometimes
with a needle found stuck in their arm, Glynn said there is an
"extreme shortage" of local treatment beds for them to go to wean off
drugs after they're stabilized.

So, within days, it's back to the street for the addict. In time, he's
overwhelmingly likely to seek out another fix, likely from one of the
same dealers whose names and plate numbers are written on the drug
unit's blackboard. 
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