In the wake of the bath salts epidemic, law enforcement officials are back to focusing on more traditional illicit drugs, the ones that used to make the headlines, making a comeback. As our Andrew Sorensen tells us, some of them are starting to worry about the rise of one in particular.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Only weeks ago, Oneida County had one of the biggest synthetic drugs problems in the state. But law enforcement buckled down and things changed.
"The calls regarding synthetic drugs have gone down to almost nothing in the past few weeks, but then we see the spike in the arrests for heroin," said Sheriff Robert Maciol.
The Oneida County Narcotics Unit says it's now their number one priority. Sheriff Robert Maciol thinks heroin may be replacing synthetic drugs regionally, but others say the trend may be more complex.
"At least what I can see from prosecuting cases here, that there's probably about a 50-50 ratio between crack and heroin cases we see," ADA and Oneida County Narcotics Unit Bureau Chief Grant Garramone said.
For Garramone, that signals a huge shift from a predominantly crack driven abuse market.
It's nowhere near epidemic levels, "But it is a concern like I said when you normally see one or two here and there, and then you see a spike of six or eight in the same time period. Then that sends a red flag up for us," Sheriff Maciol said.
They are also seeing heroin's effects in other crime trends peaking.
"We've certainly seen an association of collateral cases involving heroin where people are committing larcenies and burglaries," Garramone said.
While there's no one reason they can point to as to why heroin is showing up again, law enforcement says they have a few good theories.
"I think its availability," said Garramone.
"They can get what they need relatively inexpensively, for as little as 10 or 20 dollars, they can get that," Maciol explained.
The drug has also changed over the years, making it more attractive to users.
"It's become more potent, it's now inhaled, you can sniff it instead of injecting it with a needle," Garramone said.
To solve the problem, agencies from city police on up are trying to catch dealers, but they say it takes more than that.
"Drug court's been a very useful tool to divert people that would otherwise have no hope into a program where they can get help for their addictions," explained Garramone.
And they say it's everyone's responsibility to recognize when something is wrong with a friend or a loved one to make sure they get the help they need.
Law enforcement also say they're dealing with a large rise prescription drug abuse and they're working with the state health department to come up with a solution.