If the South cares to learn a “what not to do” lesson from the North, it will begin formulating a strategy to turn back heroin trafficking before the drug drives ol’ Dixie down.
Interviews with local law enforcement and health officials by 35 Civitas Media newspapers in 12 states found big differences between heroin’s addictive grip on northern states as opposed to those in the South.
Heroin addiction in the North is about:
• Mexican drug cartels hooking up with violent gangs such as “Sex. Money and Murder” in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where it distributed 1.5 million heroin packets over a three-year period.
• Increases in home burglaries in cities like Alton and Jacksonville, Ill., and retail robbery rings from Dayton, Ohio, traversing up and down Interstate 75.
• Addicts with no or little health-care insurance needing treatment for serious conditions such as overdoses, spontaneous abortions, infectious diseases like hepatitis, pulmonary complications and pneumonia. The Ohio Department of Health indicates that drug overdoses cost Ohioans $1.9 billion on average each year in medical costs.
• Families destroyed. Lives lost. Nearly double the number of users — now approaching 700,000 — in three moths.
“It’s a monkey like no other and that monkey is almost impossible to get off your back,” Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth told the Record Herald newspaper in Washington Court House, Ohio.
What’s unexplainable in the North is how heroin gained such a foothold without people having any warning signs. Or, maybe the signs were slapping Yankees in the face and the problem kept getting brushed away for another day.
Are Southerners about to make that same mistake?
Police officers in the South will tell you heroin trafficking is yet to be a major problem below the Mason-Dixon Line. Instead they point to meth labs and the abuse of prescription medicines as the scourge of their communities.
It was that way in the North too, years ago. But heroin found its way to the shores of the Great Lakes just as it may take a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Graham Atkinson, the sheriff of Surry County in North Carolina, says heroin has turned up in Mount Airy on occasion. That alone should be a red flag. After all, Mount Airy was the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry on that television hit, “The Andy Griffith Show.” If a drug like heroin can slither into Mayberry, it can worm its way anywhere.
It would pay dividends for members of law enforcement in both the North and South to exchange information about what they have experienced, what tactics work and what strategies have failed. If heroin trafficking can be slowed or stopped in one part of the country, there’s hope it can be halted elsewhere.
Jim Krumel is editor of the Lima (Ohio) News. He can be reached at 419-993-2076.