Since 2012, the number of people dying in Loudoun County from heroin overdoses has increased 400 percent, according to a bulletin recently released by the sheriff’s office. “Heroin overdoses continue to pose a significant problem for our area and do not show signs of stopping,” the bulletin reads.
According to the report, almost 20 percent of all LCSO overdose cases are attributed to heroin.
As of Dec. 8, 2014, the sheriff’s office had responded to 29 suspected heroin overdoses – a 71 percent increase compared to the same time in 2013 and an 263 percent increase from 2012. Ten of those cases resulted in death – a 67 percent increase compared to 2013 and a 400 percent increase since 2012.
“What you’re seeing is a misuse in pharmaceutical drugs … and what happens is when people run out of money or can’t get prescriptions for them anymore, they turn to heroin,” said Sheriff Mike Chapman. Chapman said he restructured the Special Investigations section to combat the problem on a regional scale with deputies working with the High Intensity Drug Task Force, the DEA Diversion Task Force and the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force.
“… Working with these task forces gets us to mid- to higher-level distributors to have a higher impact [on the problem,” he said. The problem has been so severe and apparent to law enforcement that last year members of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Leesburg Police Department, Virginia State Police and Attorney General Mark Herring met to discuss ways to curb heroin usage. In June members of the Virginia congressional delegation asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to set up a heroin task force, which he did.
A recent report from the Journal of the American Medical Association said: “Our data show that the demographic composition of heroin users entering treatment has shifted over the last 50 years such that heroin use has changed from an inner-city, minority-centered problem to one that has a more widespread geographical distribution, involving primarily white men and women in their late 20s living outside of large urban areas.” Heroin addiction is rampant in not only Loudoun, but all of Northern Virginia.
Northern Virginia has had a triple-digit increase in heroin overdose deaths over the last two years. According to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, more than 800 Virginians died from drug overdoses in 2012, with heroin overdose deaths nearly doubling from a total of 103 in 2011 to 197 in 2013. According to the medical examiner report, every region of the state experienced an increase in heroin fatalities during those two years, but Northern Virginia led the state with a whopping 164 percent increase during that time period.
Leesburg has also had its problems with the deadly drug. Leesburg Police, in its third quarter crime analysis, reported increases in narcotics cases, including more heroin on the streets. Leesburg Police Chief Joesph Price in a December interview with the Loudoun Times-Mirror said the department relies on community-based policy to try and eradicate the problem.
“I think our guys have done a yeoman’s job over here and it really is looking … at community policing. But we take it to the next level and we’re incorporating evidence-based policing and intelligence-based policing,” said Price “Where’s our crime happening and what strategies can we put in place to either eradicate or at least reduce that crime?”
Price said he sees the number of officer-generated arrests for narcotics in Leesburg as a positive, meaning police are doing what they can to take distributors off the streets. “It’s showing that they’re really doing pro-active work, so I consider that plus mark a positive indicator, but with that we’re using CIs [confidential informants] to do a lot of the drug purchasing because we don’t have the resources.”