Lacey Township municipal and school officials have engaged in a very concerted and cooperative effort to raise public awareness regarding what's become a local heroin "epidemic," said Police Chief David A. Paprota.
Heroin is a the very complex problem that is not only plaguing Ocean County, but the entire state, he said in a statement. Those cooperative efforts continue and are being expanded as we move forward into 2014.
The chief appeared to be responding to a Patch report last week that listed Lacey as having the 11th highest number of reported heroin abuse cases of any town in the state.
The chief's statement goes as follows:
On February 27, 2013, over 800 residents of Lacey Township attended an informational event at the Lacey Township High School during which it was revealed that the Lacey Township Police Department investigated 43 drug overdose incidents in 2012 which involved 8 accidental drug and/or alcohol overdose deaths, according to the chief.
"The staggering numbers brought to light the rising opioid drug epidemic which has been closely linked to prescription pill abuse throughout the country. Furthermore, the 2012 home or business burglary statistics reached 119 separate burglaries within Lacey Township in 2012. Investigation has consistently revealed that the burglaries committed in Lacey Township are invariably linked to the use of illegal drugs," he said..
In 2013, the Lacey Township Police Department engaged in a multifaceted approach to the very complex societal problem of drug abuse and the associated criminal conduct that negatively impacts a residential community.
First and foremost, enforcement efforts were increased, as the limited resources and staffing of the police department were redirected toward drug and alcohol enforcement. The personnel in the detective bureau and the uniformed patrol personnel most notably focused on drugs, underage consumption of alcohol, as well as burglaries.
The efforts were directed toward reducing victimization within Lacey Township and reducing the number of accidental deaths due to overdoses. The dedicated members of the police department, with the help of the community, effected 126 arrests for illegal drug possession in 2013. These arrests included 30 charges for the distribution of illegal drugs in Lacey Township. The drug dealing charges came as a result of extensive investigations which often included lengthy surveillance operations, controlled buys, and search warrants. The detective bureau personnel and uniformed patrol officers worked tirelessly to complete the investigations.
The enforcement efforts were one part of the overall approach. Public awareness and the involvement of parents throughout the community was seen as a key component in mitigating the negative impact of illegal drugs and alcohol abuse in our community. The police department stands firm on the belief that parents and family are the essential component is decreasing drug abuse and addiction. Likewise, keeping the public informed through weekly police blotter releases has raised public awareness and allowed the residents of Lacey to be more engaged in dealing with the illegal activities occurring in their neighborhoods. The public information released through the police department’s website and through the available social media outlets has resulted in over 200 substantive, anonymous “crime tips” in 2013 from residents throughout the township. Furthermore, the prescription drug drop box, installed within the lobby of police headquarters in February of 2013, has provided residents with a mechanism for disposing of unwanted medications. Well over 700 pounds of medications were collected in the box and properly destroyed in 2013, thereby lessening the availability for misuse of the prescription drugs within the township.
While 2012 was very difficult, as it produced very staggering statistics for Lacey Township, Ocean County as a whole has seen the problem actually expand greatly. In 2013, county-wide accidental, drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 2012 through 2013. It is clear that communities throughout Ocean County are struggling with this epidemic. Based on the drastic increase in drug overdoses and overdose deaths in Ocean County, the fear was that Lacey Township would follow the disturbing trend and experience twice and many overdoses and overdose deaths in 2013 as the township experienced in 2012. Those are hypothetical numbers that would be devastating for any community.
With 2013 now behind us, the results of the effort put forth by Lacey Township as a community appears to have helped mitigate the negative results of drug abuse in Lacey Township. The number of drug overdoses investigated in Lacey Township reduced from 43 incidents in 2012 down to 32 incidents in 2013. The number of accidental drug and/or alcohol overdose deaths decreased from 8 in 2012 down to 7 in 2013. These decreases occurred at a time when the remainder of the county as a whole was experiencing a more than 100% increase. Likewise, the number of residential and commercial burglaries in Lacey Township decreased from 119 burglaries in 2012 down to 60 burglaries in 2013.
The reduction in drug overdoses is a very positive trend in Lacey Township; a positive trend for which we are committed to making every effort to continue. Continuing the positive trend will require the community’s commitment to engaging the issue as we move forward in 2014. The reduction in burglaries and the close correlation with illegal drug abuse, means that 59 less families experienced the victimization of their residence being entered by a drug user while they were not home. The police department’s goal in dealing with the illegal drug epidemic plaguing our state is not only geared toward saving lives through reducing drug overdoses, but also deals squarely with reducing the victimization of Lacey Township residents that results from the crimes commonly committed by illegal drug users.
All residents are encouraged to read the weekly police blotter posted on the Lacey Township Police Department website at www.LaceyPD.org. By staying informed about what is occurring in the neighborhoods, residents are better prepared to recognize illegal activity and report the activity in a timely manner.
Since assuming command of the Lacey Township Police Department in January of 2013, I have greatly appreciated the overwhelming support of the community. Continuing the progress this community has made in such a short time will require a concerted effort by all. We, as a community, have no shortage of work and challenges ahead of us, but this past year has shown me that Lacey Township is most certainly up to the task.