“The stepped-up law enforcement efforts have helped out as well. Obviously, getting the word out about some dangerous stuff going on more than likely helped out a lot,” Patten said.
While overdoses may have slowed down, heroin use and illegal trade remain a high priority in Lawrence. On nearly a daily basis, seven officers assigned to the police department’s “Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit” are making drug arrests, with more than 80 percent of the charges involving heroin, said Police Capt. Roy Vasque.
“I don’t see any slow down,” said Vasque, noting the unit made 222 arrests in January and February this year. That’s 61 more arrests during the same time period in January and February 2013, he said.
Vasque said if the street unit was bigger “we’d be making even more arrests.”
After the spike in heroin overdoses, area police chiefs met and arranged the Feb. 6 high intensity “displacement” operation, which was aimed at halting heroin sales and averting the overdoses. It was unclear, however, how the tainted heroin arrived in the area and who the top supplier was.
Heroin sells locally for $60 to $80 per gram, with a half gram running at about $40. Detectives said the more heroin you buy often results in a reduction in price.
Late last month, Massachusetts state police released statistics that indicated 185 died of heroin overdoses during the past four months. However, the report did not include overdoses in Boston, Springfield and Worcester, the state’s three largest cities.
Several factors contributed to the fatal overdose increase, including suppliers who cut heroin with fentanyl, according to state police.
New Hampshire Editor Jo-Anne MacKenzie contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used in this report.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.