Nassau County police and health officials are nearing the end of a 60-day crackdown on the sale and use of heroin in Baldwin, which landed at No. 5 on the NCPD’s list of opioid hotspots.
Inspector Bill Leahy, commanding officer of the 1st Precinct, told the Baldwin Civic Association on June 7 that the number of overdoses and reported thefts from vehicles — which are linked to drug use in a community — are down since the operation began.
“We’ve been making some good strides,” Leahy said.
Police will provide more information on the operation at a town hall meeting on June 20, most likely at the Baldwin Firehouse on Grand Avenue, though the location might change. (The Herald will have a story on its website when the location and time are finalized.)
The multi-pronged approach to fighting opioids involves arresting drug sellers while providing assistance to drug users. In the program’s first week in Baldwin, there were 41 drug-related arrests, along with 12 more for other crimes. County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at the time that two of those arrested were teenagers suspected of selling heroin “to our children.”
The NCPD announced on June 8 that Robert Williams, of Freeport, had been arrested on drug possession charges after an investigation into overdoses in Freeport and Baldwin. He has prior arrests for heroin possession and for fleeing a police officer, according to court records. (See Crime Watch, page 4). From January 2017 to April 2018, Baldwin saw 43 non-fatal opioid overdoses and six fatal ODs.
Leahy, echoing Ryder’s words at several events, said, “We’re not going to arrest our way out of a drug crisis.”
As part of the 60-day initiative, police will often check in on drug users — especially those who may have had to be revived with Narcan, which, when successful, reverses the effects of an overdose and restores the breathing of a person who has overdosed.
“If you’re a user, we’ll work with you to get you into a program,” Leahy said. “We’ll check up on you, see how you’re doing. We look at rehab.”
State Assemblyman Brian Curran, a Republican from Lynbrook, told the Herald that Baldwin is the first community in his district to have the anti-drug operation and that he likes what he sees.
“I think it’s going to have a real impact on Baldwin,” Curran said. “I think it’s revolutionary, and I credit Commissioner Ryder for developing this.” The assemblyman said, though, that he was shocked to see the community be so high on the county’s list of opioid hotspots.
“I don’t think it was lost on anybody that Baldwin is No. 5 in Nassau County in overdoses, and even for me, I was surprised by that,” he said.
Dr. Shari Camhi, the Baldwin School District superintendent, said that while there may be an opioid problem in the community, there is not one in the schools.
“I haven’t found a single incident,” Camhi said. “If you’re caught doing something, you will not be back in our schools. We have no tolerance for that. Have we seen pot? Yes, we have seen pot. But we have not seen an opioid problem in our school district.”
County Legislator Debra Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport, advised people to come to the June 20 meeting to hear police review their operations in Baldwin. She and Leahy also touted a new county law that will take effect in about two months that will raise the legal age to buy tobacco and other smoking paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling paper, from 19 to 21.
Thefts from automobiles will also be discussed at the June 20 meeting. Addicts often steal from cars to pay for their habits, Leahy noted.
“Lock your car doors,” he told the BCA. “I can’t tell you how many people leave their credit cards, their Gucci sunglasses, their gym pass, their keys . . .”