During the summer of 2013, the Anne Arundel County Police Department began to observe a noticeable rise in heroin overdoses in the Southern portion of Anne County in areas such as Annapolis, Parole, and Edgewater. Through intelligence gathering, it was determined that the majority of the overdoses were occurring in public places such as malls and shopping centers and many of the people purchasing and using the heroin were traveling from other counties into Anne Arundel County. After obtaining this information and sensing the potential huge public safety and health issue, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis directed members of his Command Staff to put together a plan with a focus on targeting heroin dealers who travel to the area to purchase and/or sell heroin, potentially increasing the risk of overdoses in the County along with providing users with education and avenues for treatment. As a result, “Operation H.O.P.E. (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Eradication) was created.
Based on observations and information obtained regarding heroin trafficking, members of the Anne Arundel County Police Department began working closely with other federal, state and local partners to identify, disrupt and target the operations of heroin dealers in Anne Arundel County while conducting interviews and gathering intelligence to ultimately make criminal arrests when probable cause existed. Aside from enforcement, Chief Davis has asked the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and the Anne Arundel County Crisis Response System to assist the Police Department in an effort to provide resources to heroin users who need assistance in battling their addiction.
In many cases, police officers are the first responders on the scene of an overdose and every second counts in this type of scenario. With this in mind, Chief Davis decided to take another valuable step by purchasing “Narcan”, a potentially life-saving drug that can reverse the side effects of a heroin overdose. Members of the Anne Arundel County Police Department are currently being trained by members of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department on how to use “Narcan”. “Narcan”, which police officers will administer through a nasal spray that they will be issued, has been successful in treating overdoses of heroin and other opiates by EMS providers for years. The drug reverses the effects of an overdose. During an opiate overdose, a patient may suffer a disruption in normal breathing. In some cases, breathing may stop altogether, quickly leading to death.
During training, every patrol officer in the agency will receive a dose of naloxone. In Anne Arundel County alone so far in 2014, 85(*) people have suffered heroin overdoses. Of those overdoses, 12(*) were fatal. The Police Department has continued to combat the two most prevalent crimes in Anne Arundel County: theft from automobiles and theft of precious metals. The common denominator in these types of crimes is suspects addicted to the drug heroin. During the last several months, officers in several districts have made arrests during Operation H.O.P.E. resulting in seizures of suspected heroin.
“The heroin problem that exists is not isolated to Anne Arundel County, and this is not an issue that law enforcement can arrest their way out of,” said Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis. “A holistic approach, involving education, treatment and enforcement is needed to tackle this disease. One of the major tenets of law enforcement is to protect lives and I believe that outfitting officers with “Narcan” is an invaluable tool in the effort to save people from losing their battles with substance abuse.”