By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Drug overdoses impacting the way police can respond


September 19, 2017

Carrick residents learned about the local impact of the national opioid epidemic from Pittsburgh Police narcotics detective Calvin Kennedy at last week’s Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch meeting.

Overdose statistics, recognizing opioids, and submitting drug crime tips were just a few of the topics covered by detective Kennedy, who began his presentation by holding up a thick stack of paper.

“The biggest thing we face in the city of Pittsburgh is this,” detective Kennedy said. “This whole packet is overdoses.”

Detective Kennedy’s packet contained 1,236 police-recorded overdoses in the city of Pittsburgh that have happened so far this year. 153 of those resulted in death. Last year’s overdose total was 630.

“We’ve basically doubled last year, and it’s only September 11,” detective Kennedy said. “We knew it was going to be a bad year from the get go.”

According to the detective, this increase in overdoses and deaths is also impacting the day-to-day work of the city’s narcotics officers, as the majority of time is now spent investigating these incidents as opposed to proactively policing drug crime.

Detective Kennedy showed residents examples of stamp bags and passed around pictures of heroin and fentanyl in quantities that represented what is considered to be a lethal dose. Fentanyl, which can be absorbed through the skin, is 25 to 50 percent stronger than heroin. It’s also the main driver behind the spike in overdose deaths in Pittsburgh.

He also mentioned that because of the high volume of deaths, many neighborhoods are seeing a drop in the type of crime often committed by drug addicts, such as thefts and bank robberies.

Residents who notice suspicious activity or suspect drug crime in their neighborhood can submit a tip to the Pittsburgh Police narcotics department by calling 412-323-7761. Callers should also report the time of day the activity is occurring, so surveillance efforts can be set up appropriately.

In addition to the opioid presentation, Zone 3 community relations officer Christine Luffey handed out a monthly crime report detailing last month’s criminal incidents in Carrick and Overbrook.

Between August 7 and September 8, police investigated 11 overdoses, 25 thefts,18 incidents of criminal mischief, and six simple assaults.

“If you look at your statistics, you’ll see that the number of overdoses in the past 30 days are up there again,” officer Luffey said. “It’s a battle every day. Every shift. We’re in an epidemic.”

Officer Luffey expanded on several of the drug-related arrests in the report:

Police encountered two males sitting in a parked car near Volunteers Field on August 11 at 12 a.m. According to police, an officer approached the vehicle and noticed a heavy smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

When searching the vehicle, police found the marijuana, in addition to a large sum of cash and a stolen firearm. Police also discovered the vehicle was stolen. Both suspects were arrested at the scene.

On August 13 at 6 p.m. two officers were dispatched to the Rite Aid on Saw Mill Run Boulevard for a domestic dispute following a 911 report of a man assaulting a woman in the parking lot. Officers noticed a male suspect fitting the reported description walking along Transport Street.

The suspect led police on a foot chase before he was caught in the 2500 block of Library Road. Police discovered heroin and needles in the suspect’s backpack.

On August 22 at 10 p.m. a woman waved down police in the 1900 block of Brownsville Road to report a suspicious man sitting in a vehicle in a nearby parking lot. According to police, the man was preparing to inject heroin when they approached the vehicle. He was arrested and charged with possession of narcotics.

A woman was charged with endangering the welfare of children on September 4 around 12 p.m. Officers and medics responded to the 1200 block of Amanda Street for an overdose. Police administered two doses of Narcan to revive a male inside the home.

A female resident admitted to officers that the male suspect had also injected her with heroin. CYF Services was notified as children were present in the home during the incident.

On September 7 at 5:15 p.m., police discovered a crack pipe in a vehicle after investigating a suspicious vehicle parked near a vacant area on Concordia Street near Poplar Grove. Two female passengers and a male driver were arrested.

The next Carrick / Overbrook Block Watch meeting is Monday, Oct. 2 in the Concord K5 auditorium on Brownsville Road.


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