YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As police in New York City continue looking for clues in what many believe was the drug overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman over the weekend, local officials say the problem of heroin use is much more widespread than many want to believe.
Those who track the figures said of the 55 or 60 drug-related deaths each of the past two years in Mahoning County, roughly half saw heroin as a specific factor, and local police said abuse of the drug is probably their single biggest concern.
In fact, one of the people arrested Friday at what police say was a huge methamphetamine bust in Coitsville reportedly had heroin in his pockets at the time. And while many people would shake their heads at the case of Seymour Hoffman, local police said drug users would probably act very differently.
“A lot of the heroin users, if they hear of a friend or colleague that has overdosed, they’ll actually go out and try to seek who sold them the drug because they believe that it’s a good quantity and it’s the one that’s going to give them the ultimate high,” said Sgt. Larry McLaughlin of the Mahoning County Drug Task Force.
But authorities said drugs affect more than just those who are using or selling them, noting drug-related thefts and burglaries ultimately drive up insurance rates and prices on goods at department stores to cover what gets stolen and police said that impacts everyone.
Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said he thinks the problem is pervasive enough that he wants to establish a new treatment program for those committing property crimes to feed their addictions. It would be patterned after one now being used in Stark County and he would like to see it housed in Mahoning County’s now-closed minimum security jail.
Greene said what worries law enforcement even more than the heroin problem itself is complacency by the public.
“It’s not just an inner city problem. It’s out in our suburbs, it’s affecting everybody. And it’s affecting many people that you stereotypically wouldn’t think that it affects,” Greene said.