Pubdate: Fri, 18 Mar 2016
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2016 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: John R. Ellement


The fight against drug addiction took a new direction this week when 
Massachusetts Environmental Police and New Bedford police boarded 
fishing vessels in New Bedford Harbor, searching for fishermen 
carrying illegal drugs for personal use.

"Commercial fishing is a dangerous enough job as it is," said 
Environmental Police Major Patrick J. Moran. "Using drugs makes it 
even more dangerous. Our intention was to stop the drugs from getting 
out to sea aboard the fishing vessels."

Over two days, four law enforcement vessels stopped 11 fishing boats 
heading out of the harbor, leading to arrests of at least six people 
on drug possession charges and of two people on outstanding warrants, 
officials said.

"We are trying to make a difference where we can," said Moran.

The federal Department of Homeland Security assisted in the operation.

New Bedford Police Sergeant Jason C. Gomes said those arrested were 
directed into drug courts because the goal of the interdiction effort 
was not imprisonment.

"The goal is to prevent some of the overdoses and hopefully save 
lives," said Gomes, commander of the department's Port Security Unit. 
"The ultimate goal, our hope, is that we could do one of these 
[interdiction] efforts and not find any drugs in any fishing boats underway."

Moran and Gomes said their effort was backed by owners of the fishing 
vessels, some of whom have approached Moran and asked for his 
department to get involved with drug abuse on fishing boats.

Gomes said he knows many fishermen and captains who have also urged 
local police to get involved.

In the planning meetings for the effort, the law enforcement 
officials said they met with staffers from the office of Bristol 
District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III and reached an agreement that 
anyone taken into custody would be pushed toward help.

"Our intention was not to go out and arrest a bunch of people," Moran 
said. "The people that we did arrest - we wanted to get help for them."

Gomes said he was driven to act because of his concern for the 
fishing industry overall, which, he said, is the economic engine for 
New Bedford. "I have a job because of the fishing industry. I have 
close friends that are fishermen. And these are probably the 
hardest-working blue-collar guys in the community," he said. "The 
captains were very, very pleased about what we were doing."

Moran's jurisdiction as a coastal commander for the Environmental 
Police stretches from Gloucester on the North Shore to the outermost 
tips of Cape Cod and the Islands.

 From his perspective, the discovery of heroin on a handful of 
vessels in New Bedford indicates that the issue is an industry-wide concern.

"It's not just a New Bedford problem," he said. "It's a statewide problem."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom