Over the past few weeks, local police have been giving residents of Greater Newburyport some excellent insight into their ongoing fight against heroin.
It is an ugly side of our society, but one that we need to know about and confront. To that end, we applaud local police departments for showing us what they are doing and for noting that the problem is larger than they have the capacity to solve. Police need the public’s help in beating back heroin use and drug deals, and we in the public need to step up and lend that help.
Since August, a number of busts have taken place in Newburyport, Salisbury, Merrimac and Amesbury. Dealers and drug users have been caught, but the problem is far from solved. Heroin is a relatively inexpensive and highly addictive drug that is easy to transport and can be quickly sold.
Police had a victory last week with the arrest of a handful of people involved in the drug trade. But as Newburyport Police Marshal Thomas Howard said, “It’s a step in the right direction. I think we have a long way to go in the city.”
People should be alarmed by the locations where these drug deals are taking place — for instance Newburyport’s rail trail and Cashman Park, fast food parking lots on Route 110 in Amesbury, and a CVS parking lot in Salisbury Square. These are not back alleys — these are places frequented by thousands of people, places that are considered safe and family-friendly.
It’s important to note that heroin use is a major motive for theft crimes. In Amesbury for example, police charged a man with going on a 9-month crime spree in his Main Street neighborhood. He broke into dozens of cars, as well as homes and garages, stealing thousands of dollars worth of valuables and causing significant problems for his victims. It took months for police to identify and arrest him.
And that’s just one person, causing chaos for an entire neighborhood. Multiply that by dozens or more, and the full picture begins to emerge.
We have good police departments in this area who work together and know “the streets,” so to speak, pretty well. But the public plays a role in helping reduce heroin-related crimes. Illegal activity should be immediately reported to local police, as well as tips about possible heroin-related activity and use. Police welcome these tips, and in the end, they may be the tool that helps break apart the heroin distribution network.