The Investigators

Nov 20, 2008 1:18 AM

Black tar heroin on the rise

The Northwest commmunity and the foothills are becoming hotspots for black tar heroin use according to some law enformcent officials.

The mother of a former heroin addict tells us, "It was so bad and so infested in the foothills, the drug dealers actually come to the end of the street."

Her son says, "It's pretty much an epidemic. Kids don't want to admit it, but it's everywhere."

Tony Coulson is with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He tells us, "We've seen some children high school aged, involved in heroin use."

Sergeant Mike McBride is with the Oro Valley Police Department. He says, "The female buyer was 19. She had graduated from CDO last year. The male buyer was an 18 year old Catalina Foothills student."

Officially and unofficially, fingers point at the foothills community and the northwest side as two hotspots of the black tar heroin problem.

Drug counselor Morrisse Luckey says, "I see children from, let's just say, the foothills and the northwest community. Some, including schools within the Amphi District. CDO is one of those schools."

Our former heroin addict adds, "You could buy it. You could get it anywhere. I really didn't pay for it for a while. They'd kind of just give it to me."

This boy became addicted, then left school to get treatment.

Sergeant McBride is in the thick of the battle against black tar heroin. Since January, his unit has made 37 felony arrests of heroin dealers and users directly related to area high schools, students, or those with close ties to campuses. These two teen suspects were nabbed just last Thursday.

McBride says, "There's one incident involving a juvenile female that was trading sex for free heroin. This case started out with a 15 year old high school student. The students are actually buying from subjects that are armed. They're dangerous drug dealers."

Coulson says enforcement can be made more difficult if a school runs scared of a drug problem. He notes, "A lot of it is privacy issues, but, I think there's just a general fear, a stigma, that these schools in rather affluent areas, the stigma of 'we have a drug use problem'."

The principal at Catalina Foothills High School says his school is still stigmatized from the arrest three years ago of three students caught with black tar heroin on campus. But, in fact, he says he hasn't had to deal with a black tar heroin case since he got there almost a year and a half ago.

Principal Loren Rathert tells News 4, "We're probably doing what we need to do to keep the drugs out of the campus. But, it doesn't mean that they're not out there in the community. When they're out there in the community, they're going to filter in. But, the actual indicators of use are not appearing on campus."

But, black tar heroin on city streets is a different story. Coulson says, "The problem that we're having is that we're getting anecdotal evidence from both treatment providers and law enforcement that says that heroin use is on the increase."

The schools say they're doing everything they can, legally, to counsel and get help for students who go over the edge with drugs.

Law enforcement says they'd like to see more cooperation between them and the schools, while everyone watches to see if black tar heroin will break out into a major epidemic.

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