Pubdate: Tue, 21 Jul 2015
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2015 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Megan Guza


Pennsylvanians' addiction to heroin is the biggest drug problem in 
the state, a fact revealed not only in death statistics but also in 
state police drug busts.

Pennsylvania State Police seized four times as much heroin in the 
second quarter of the year as they did the first, according to 
numbers released Tuesday. They seized more than 80 pounds of heroin 
worth more than $27 million between April and June, compared to just 
over 21 pounds between January and March.

That's more than 100 pounds in six months.

State police seized about 90 pounds of heroin during the first six 
months of 2014 and 68 pounds during the entire year of 2013.

Trooper Adam Reed, a state police spokesman, said the increase is a good thing.

"We have recognized heroin as the No. 1 drug problem facing 
Pennsylvania," Reed said. "We have put more emphasis on finding 
dangerous drugs, such as heroin, before they hit our streets."

He said police have increased efforts to complete and close ongoing 
heroin investigations.

"We hope to see these numbers continue to rise," he said.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the rise in seizures signals more 
aggressive policing as well as the scope of the epidemic.

"We're giving no quarter in our efforts," he said. "It's killing 
people. So we're working really hard, prosecuting really aggressively 
and investigating thoroughly."

Allegheny County had 303 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the 
state coroners association. Forty percent of those overdoses were 
from illegal drugs, which include heroin and cocaine. Westmoreland 
County had 87 overdose deaths, with 33 in both Washington and Butler 
counties. Five counties, including Allegheny, had overdose deaths 
higher than 100. Only Philadelphia had more than Allegheny, with 611.

In April, two county residents died in what police called the largest 
wave of heroin overdoses in a year; 10 people survived when 
paramedics administered Narcan, a drug that reverses the drug's deadly effects.

The Department of Justice has a strong partnership with state police 
because "the highways are the byways of drug trafficking," Hickton said.

The department also partners with police in communities near highway 
intersections, he said. For example, there is a partnership with 
police in Erie, where Interstates 79 and 90 intersect, as well as in 
Washington County where Interstates 79 and 70 meet, with I-76 nearby.

Western Pennsylvania arrests in the past week include a McKeesport 
man arrested for the second time in one month on multiple charges, 
including heroin possession. He was found July 7 with 71 packets of 
the drug and on Tuesday with 45.

On Friday, a Penn Hills woman was pulled over in Westmoreland County 
and found to have 2,000 bricks of heroin in the car - about $1 
million worth of the drug.

On Thursday, a Jeannette man was arrested after police conducted a 
series of controlled heroin purchases at his home. The same day, a 
McKees Rocks man and a Forest Hills woman were charged in a bust in Altoona.

Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen 
A. Zappala Jr., said that while he did not have access to statistics, 
the drug remains a problem.

"There has not been any decrease in the number of heroin arrests," he 
said. "That's for sure."

Hickton noted that as the number of people with prescription opioids 
continues to rise, so does the number of people on heroin; 
prescription painkillers often act as a gateway drug. When people can 
no longer afford the painkiller, they turn to heroin.

"And once they get addicted, they're on the pathway to hell," Hickton said.
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