I-Team: Police Take Unique Approach as Heroin Epidemic Worsens in NY Suburbs - NBC New York
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I-Team: Police Take Unique Approach as Heroin Epidemic Worsens in NY Suburbs

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    With heroin use spiking in the northern suburbs of New York, at least one police department is taking a different approach: showing leniency to users. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Tuesday, July 26, 2016)

    With heroin use spiking in the northern suburbs of New York, at least one police department is taking a different approach: showing leniency to users.

    Harrison police are sitting in the epicenter of the heroin crisis, and in the wake of a string of fatal heroin and opiate overdoses in the New York subsurbs, authorities are trying to persuade users to come to them. 

    "If you walk in the front door of our headquarters and you bring your drugs, you bring your paraphernalia, no problem. No arrest. No interrogation," said Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini. "And I will guarantee you that I will have somebody do everything they can to get you assistance."

    Five years ago, the New York state health department recorded 924 heroin overdoses. In 2014, the most recent year statistics are available, that number increased to 1,443. Some of the biggest increases happened in the upscale suburbs of Westchester County.

    Sgt. Frank Massaro, who has worked with the Harrison Police for 14 years, said he's "never seen this much heroin." 

    "When I was assigned to narcotics, most of the time it was marijuana, pills, ecstasy," he said. "Every now and then you’d see heroin but now it’s just heroin all the time."

    Ellen Hackett, the director of special services at Peekskill School District, says they too are facing a heroin crisis.

    "We’ve had staff members often say, 'I’m going to a funeral now, I’m going to one next week and every two or three weeks staff are stepping out to go to a graduate or former student’s funeral,'" she said.

    Susan Salomone started Drug Crisis in our Backyard after her son Justin died from a heroin overdose in 2012.

    "They’ve been raised in an environment that is so comfortable that, they don’t really think anything serious can happen to them," she said.

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