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August 5, 2013

Methuen sees sharp spike in heroin arrests

METHUEN — Police officer Jeff Torrisi, on patrol with his canine partner Dunkin, spotted a vehicle with out-of-state plates parked at a liquor store on Lawrence Street at about 4:30 p.m. on July 9. It drew Torrisi’s attention because of the three people standing around it, like they were waiting for someone.

Torrisi watched the group, and soon enough, a man and a woman walked toward the car and got in. Police believe there was a transaction inside that car, and the man and woman got out again and walked toward Camden Street. The man made a phone call, and both were picked up by a black sedan. The sedan drove around the block and let the couple out on Phillips Street.

The man and the woman walked back to the car parked at the liquor store and got in. The five all left together.

Torrisi pulled the car over on Route 213 and arrested everyone inside on charges ranging from distribution of a class A substance, a classification that includes heroin and other opiates, possession of a class A substance or knowingly being present where heroin is kept. Police said they retrieved 4.2 grams of heroin in a single plastic bag from the back seat of the car.

The man walking back and forth to the cars on Lawrence Street was a middleman between a dealer in this area and the others in the car, Methuen police Sgt. James Gunther said. All five arrested are from Manchester, N.H.

Torrisi made the arrest with training and experience, that is, knowing how to spot an active or developing drug sale, and by trying to be in the right place at the right time by focusing patrols on areas where transactions are most likely to happen.

Area police said that disrupting these sales, and the flow of heroin from New York and Boston into Northern New England through Massachusetts’ border communities, is tricky because sales happen in a few minutes, are conducted out of view in cars and, obviously, are not announced with times and locations beforehand.

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