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Westmoreland County's war on heroin has drawn the attention of Congress. 

Some area front-line soldiers will testify today before a U.S.  House Government Reform subcommittee in Washington on how the deadly narcotic has become fatally popular among suburban teenagers. 

County Detective Tony Marcocci, along with his partner, Detective Terry Kuhns, and Latrobe police Detective Ray Dupilka, will join a panel of law enforcement officials from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York invited to address the subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. 

The subcommittee is examining national efforts to block heroin supplies at their source: Colombia, South America. 

"( Colombian ) heroin is the purest, most addictive and deadly heroin produced anywhere in the world," said Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton, a Republican congressman from Indiana.  "With a single dose costing as little as $4 and having purity levels as high as 93 percent, this is a problem that demands the attention of Congress."

According to the U.S.  Drug Enforcement Agency, Colombian drug traffickers began sending increasing amounts of heroin to the United States in the late 1990s.  The crisis has since reached epidemic proportions, with potent Colombian heroin flooding communities and causing a noticeable rise in overdoses. 

The committee learned that there have been 12 overdose deaths in Westmoreland County this year.  Regionally, and nationally, it reported, overdose deaths exceed homicides. 

Testimony from the officers is expected to include reports on heroin as a drug of choice for suburban teens -- a development that drew more than 200 concerned parents to a drug summit held by the Elks in Derry Township in October. 

Marcocci, Kuhns and Dupilka spoke at that summit, along with county District Attorney John Peck, who reported "an unusual number of incidents of heroin use causing a great deal of concern where you would not expect to find it."

Marcocci has said that he and Kuhns -- both with more than two decades in narcotics investigations -- have seen heroin "in every little patch town in the county."

Dupilka has worked with the county detectives on a number of major drug arrests in recent years.  His commanding officer, Latrobe police Chief Charles Huska, credited all three officers. 

"I'm really excited for them," Huska said.  "They are true professionals and excellent officers who have done a lot for drug enforcement in this community."

The recent heroin epidemic "is a sad situation," he added. 

While city police and other law enforcement agencies have taken proactive, preventative approaches through such programs as the recent summit, Huska said they also plan to continue aggressive enforcement tactics, as well. 

"We'll just keep making arrests and making arrests and going after the dealers," he said. 

In the meantime, the congressional subcommittee is examining national efforts to cut off the drug's supply. 

The hearing today -- titled "America's Heroin Crisis, Colombian Heroin, and How We Can Improve Plan Colombia" -- will convene at 11 a.m.  in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building. 

"Plan Colombia" was devised in 1999 to halt heroin importation to the United States by destroying opium poppy plants in South America.  The plants produce a juice from which the narcotic drug is processed.  Heroin can be snorted, smoked or injected. 

Despite recommendations from U.S.  and Colombian law enforcement officials, resources have shifted to attacking coca plants, which are used to make cocaine, causing eradication missions to Columbia's poppy fields to be curtailed drastically. 

Adrian Plesha, a Greensburg native who works as an aide to U.S.  Rep.  Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, said he contacted Marcocci to testify at the hearing after reading about Westmoreland County's drug woes in an article in the Miami Herald. 

"I was literally in shock that our county, where I grew up, was cited as an example," Plesha said. 

Other witnesses to testify include officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S.  Transportation Security Administration, the Portland, Maine, and Howard County, Md., police departments and several other agencies. 

MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager

Pubdate: Thu, 12 Dec 2002
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Contact: opinion@tribweb.com
Copyright: 2002 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Website: http://triblive.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/460
Author: Dwayne Pickels, Tribune Review
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/heroin.htm (Heroin)