Eighty-five percent of crime in Delaware County Common Pleas Court is related to heroin, officials said Monday at a public meeting.
Steve Hedges, director of the Delaware/Morrow mental health and recovery services board, and Sgt. Randy Pohl of the Delaware County Drug Task Force, spoke at the Public Employee Retirees Inc.’s Delaware County Chapter 36 meeting at SourcePoint and shared some information about the heroin problem in Delaware County.
Pohl said the heroin problem is fairly recent in the county.
“In the middle of 2009, we started to see black tar heroin,” Pohl said. At the time the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office knew there was heroin in Columbus but hadn’t encountered it until 2009, he said.
Now the Delaware County Jail admits roughly five inmates a day who have an addiction to heroin, Pohl said.
Hedges explained that typically people don’t start with heroin. Hedges said many people get addicted to prescription pain pills prescribed by their doctors and. when the prescriptions run out, they turn to heroin to reach the same high. Making matters worse, Pohl said, heroin is a cheaper alternative to prescription painkillers.
“Property crimes are worse than they have ever been,” Pohl said. “We have three home invasions [in the county] every day.” Pohl said people will break into homes and steal anything they can sell or trade to feed their habits. As a result, Pohl said 65 percent of the cases in Delaware Municipal Court and 85 perfect of the cases in Delaware County Common Pleas Court are related to heroin.
Members of PERI asked Pohl and Hedges some questions about heroin, including “what is the county doing about it?”
Pohl said law enforcement is trying to make it harder for the Mexican drug cartels to bring heroin to Delaware County and sell it.
On the treatment side, Hedges said medications and counseling are used to get addicts clean. However, going through withdrawal is terrifying to most addicts, Hedges said.
“These drugs are horrific to come off of,” Hedges said. “This drug is so powerful. We’ve heard one or two hits and you are hooked.”
One member asked how much taxpayers are paying to treat addicts. Hedges said treatment typically costs taxpayers between $3,000 to $4,000 depending on the medication and treatment involved. The alternative is prison, Hedges said, which costs $26,000 per inmate.
“This is a new thing that we as a society were not prepared for,” Pohl said. “[Heroin] doesn’t discriminate.”
Hedges said one way people can help is by turning in their expired or unwanted pain medications for destruction at locations like the Delaware Police Department. Hedges said these drugs can be stolen during burglaries and sold on the street to feed people’s opioid habit.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.