NEWBURYPORT — The city has a heroin problem, a fact city police marshals and mayors have been combating for decades. But for many residents, the idea that their tranquil tourist attraction of a city has been waging an uphill battle against a scourge that kills people, destroys families, causes addicts to break into homes and steal from their loved ones is easy to dismiss.
In recent months, however, that illusion has been shattered for many, as the city’s police department has made a series of high-profile heroin arrests. Add to the unsettling sight of used syringes and needles found in playgrounds and reports of addicts shooting up in public places such as the city’s rail trail, it’s becoming easier to see that the problems of heroin abuse and sales is spreading.
Last night, Mayor Donna Holaday, City Marshal Thomas Howard, Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins Jr. and other community leaders came together to shed even more light on heroin use and its sale during a public forum at City Hall.
About 50 people attended last night’s panel discussion, organized by Holaday; and if there was one central message relayed by the panel, it was that it takes a community willing to discuss the issue and attack the issue to make a difference.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, it’s not going to happen,” Blodgett said, adding that until a community raises its level of awareness, it can’t deal with heroin addiction in a constructive way.
What’s more important than putting people in prison, he said, is talking to your children about heroin and drug use starting when they are in fifth grade. By the time they’ve reached middle school, it can be too late.