SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – The heroin problem in Salem is so bad that the police chief is now letting people drop off their illegal drugs at the station. No questions asked, no charges filed.
Chief J.T. Panezott is more concerned than ever about the heroin epidemic. He wants the drugs off the streets because people in Salem and nearby Leetonia are dying.
“We have people dropping dead all over the state. We’ve had four in our area in the last two weeks. Two in Salem, two in Leetonia,” Panezott said.
The two in Salem occurred within a week of each other.
First, a man died of an overdose in the front yard of his Roosevelt Avenue home, within walking distance of Salem Hospital.
Then early Saturday morning, a woman was found dead in a house on North Ellsworth Avenue. Police also found drug paraphernalia. There are no toxicology results yet, but a drug overdose is suspected.
When Panezott learned two others also died over the weekend in nearby Leetonia, he created the policy allowing people to bring illegal drugs into the police station.
“Do I expect to see anybody do it? No. But we have a drop box in the back, people turn in prescription medication all the time. I don’t look at it any differently,” he said. “Somebody says, ‘I found this heroin on the street’ and they want to give it to us, then we’ll dispose of it properly.”
Panezott is a veteran of the law enforcement of drugs. He spent eight years running the Columbiana County Drug Task Force and 13 years as a drug enforcement agent.
He says he saw the heroin problem coming.
“Cocaine used to be the big drug. All of a sudden, it disappeared off the streets and everybody had Oxycontin. Oxycontin got too expensive on the streets and we started seeing heroin.”
The Cincinnati area started a no charge policy last month and so far, no one has shown up at a police department with heroin.
As Panezott said, he doesn’t expect anyone to turn over their heroin, but the offer is there.