EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 3, 2013

Man charged in 'four-town crime spree'

(Continued)

“The guys did a great job,” Patten said. “Chelmsford puts out a BOLO and less than 30 minutes later, we’re pulling him over.”

He said Salem police are working with police in the other three communities.

“I think it’s safe to say he’s in the throes of drug addiction,” Patten said of Slater.

That’s not unusual in Salem these days.

“We’ve seen a huge spike this year in drug activity and drug-related crime,” he said. “Any theft-related crime we have, a high percentage is directly linked to drugs, and we see a lot of theft. It’s the same everywhere.”

A lot of addicts, although not all, may start out with prescription painkillers, he said, drugs for which a doctor prescribed the medication.

“We’ve had people come through here who were robbing banks, who had been on prescription painkillers for a long time, then were taken off and then cascaded into illicit drugs,” Patten said. “Some people start out recreational use.”

When prescription drugs are no longer available legally or are too expensive illegally, he said, many of those people turn to heroin.

It’s not only while investigating theft cases that police are coming across illegal drugs, he said, but also during routine traffic stops.

Such was the case Tuesday when six people were arrested on felony drug charges after three traffic stops.

“These people were stopped either for suspicious activity or a motor vehicle infraction,” Patten said. “Upon interaction with them, officers determined they had drugs.”

Just before noon, Danielle Wittkowski, 25, of Salem was stopped and arrested on felony counts for possession of a controlled drug, crack; possession of a controlled drug, heroin; and transportation of a controlled drug.

Just past 1 p.m., police made two more arrests during a traffic stop. Denise Griffin, 47, of Nashua was charged with felony possession of heroin and transportation of a controlled drug.

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