The Norwalk Police Department saw slightly more drug-related reports and arrests last year compared to 2017.
According to its annual report released at the most recent Norwalk city council meeting, police had 313 drug-related reports in 2018. These reports led to 73 investigations by the detective bureau, resulting in 127 arrests.
By comparison, the previous year saw 282 reports, with 74 investigations and 117 arrests.
Drugs seized during detectives’ investigations indicate that Norwalk is seeing a sharp increase both in heroin/fenatnyl and methamphetamine use, which increased by about nine and 14 times year-over-year.
Detective Sgt. Seth Fry said heroin and fentanyl are grouped together because it’s “very seldom” the department finds one without the other. He said it’s a rarity to ever find “pure heroin.”
Both Fry and Chief Mike Conney noted the data doesn’t mean the problem wasn’t there because there were only nine drug cases involving this mixture in 2017, compared to the 34 last year.
“It just means when we made our purchases, it wasn’t there in the drugs we bought,” Fry said. “There did seem to be a big uptake in fentanyl-laced drugs in 2018 though. We believe that’s probably because it’s a ‘better high’ for these people. ... We hear people talk about ‘Yeah, this is fire’ and they’re meaning it’s the high they were looking for.”
That high comes from “an extremely dangerous” source.
“The fact is that a very small amount will kill you,” Fry said.
Each officer now carries Narcan as part of his or her everyday gear, just in case they might come into accidental contact with fentanyl. Even accidentally coming into contact with a minute amount of the drug could prove lethal, Conney said. That means intentionally taking the substance poses an even higher risk of death, especially since most users don’t know exactly what they’re taking.
“I’m sure these drug dealers don't go through any sort of quality-control measure when they pack the drugs,” Fry said. “That's a big concern for anyone handling the packages, including our officers.”
Fentanyl isn’t the only danger to the community. During his year-end presentation to city council, Conney said the psychological and physiological effects of methamphetamines “are scary.”
“These are definitely scary and our detective bureau is focusing on going after them,” Conney told council members, referring to suspects who possess and traffick in meth. “The officers have to be super diligent and look beyond the typical.”
In fact, the highly addictive stimulant-type drug has caught the department’s special focus for 2019.
“We're going to focus on methamphetamines, but opioids are not disappearing either,” Conney said. “We’re not forgetting about them either.”
While the number of drug possessions and paraphernalia charges went up, the number of overdoses officers were called to decreased from 58 to 41 last year. And unlike 2017, none of those 41 overdoses resulted in any arrests.
Conney said that’s partly because the law prevents police from charging either the person who overdosed or the one who called to report it.
“We’d never want to discourage someone from taking an action to save someone’s life,” the chief said. “And typically not too many people are hanging around after the police are called.
“The detective bureau continues to investigate drug overdoses to identify the seller of the drug with the goal of filing criminal charges on the suspect,” Conney wrote in the year-end report. “These investigations are lengthy and often do not result in a criminal charge.”
Police also participate in the Quick Response Team (QRT), along with five other agencies. The program aims to provide the needed engagement, outreach or intervention to Huron County residents who experienced an overdose requiring a life-saving effort, such as an officer’s administration of Narcan.
“The intent of the outreach is to encourage and assist those plagued with addiction in accessing needed services at a qualified treatment center,” according to the report. “Every Tuesday, team members attempt to contact anyone who overdosed the previous week.”
Police intend to continue its focus on drug-related crimes, full-force ahead.
“We’re planning on being very aggressive in drug investigation (in 2019),” Conney said.
COMING THURSDAY: Part 4 in this series will focus on the police department’s enforcement of traffic laws.
BREAKOUT BOX 1
This week, the Reflector is publishing a six-part series about the 2018 Norwalk Police Department annual report.
Here is the focus of each part:
Monday - Crime overview
Tuesday - Sex offenses
TODAY - Drug crimes
Thursday - Traffic law enforcement
Friday - Most dangerous intersections
Saturday - Department updates and vision
BREAKOUT BOX 2
DRUG CRIMES IN NORWALK
Here are the numbers of drug crimes and arrests in Norwalk during the last two years.
Category 2017 2018
Drug deception to obtain — 1 (1) 1 (0)
Drug paraphernalia — 35 (21) 61 (24)
Drug possession — 102 (85) 125 (91)
Drug trafficking — 86 (5) 85 (12)
Overdose — 58 (5) 41 (0)
NOTE: Related arrests are in parenthesis.
SOURCE: Norwalk Police Department
BREAKOUT BOX 3
DRUG TYPES IN NORWALK
Here are the numbers of drug cases investigated by the detective bureau, broken down by each type of drug, in Norwalk during the last two years.
Category 2017 2018
Cocaine — 5, 2
Heroin/Fentanyl — 9, 34
LSD/Mushrooms — 0, 0
Marijuana — 0, 1
Methamphetamine — 2, 28
Prescription drugs — 19, 8
“The detective bureau continues to investigate drug overdoses to identify the seller of the drug with the goal of filing criminal charges on the suspect.”
— Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney