Nassau police say they have seen a 38 percent drop in drug overdose deaths countywide since late February, when they began an aggressive, five-pronged approach to tackling the opioid epidemic. Non-fatal overdoses, meanwhile, are down 23 percent, police said.
The downturn is due in part to the department’s new OD Maps tracking system. It helps police pinpoint hot spots for overdoses and then flood those areas with educational efforts and arrests, according to county Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who spoke at a public meeting in Levittown last week.
The hot spots are identified by overlaying data on fatal and non-fatal overdoses, as well as arrests for larcenies from autos, or LFAs. Ryder said that there is a direct correlation between spikes in these types of thefts and overdoses. In each case, officers have blanketed the area with materials that warn residents to lock their cars. Then they make a number of arrests for drug possession and sales, and finally they hold a public meeting in that community to make residents — especially parents — aware of the issue.
“We’re putting our foot on the gas and not letting up,” Ryder told an audience at the Levittown firehouse on April 5. “We’re going to go from community to community until the number of fatal overdoses is zero.”
The NCPD started the program in Massapequa, which they referred to as the county’s No. 1 hot spot. They then moved to East Meadow, which had the second-highest number of overdose deaths in 2017, and then to Levittown. Ryder said that the department would hold a similar education meeting in another community with high rates of overdoses and LFAs in two weeks.
Those who are arrested for drug possession are given a list f phone numbers for services where they can find help. In the case of an overdose, officers visit the victim and/or his or her family after to see if they can provide additional assistance.
Levittown, the third hot spot
There were 54 overdoses in the Levittown area in 2017, eight of them fatal, Ryder said. There were 92 larcenies from autos.
In the week leading up to last week’s meeting, he said, police made 50 arrests in Levittown, 40 of them drug-related. The others were LFAs. Ryder urged the audience to lock their cars, saying that in 90 percent of LFA cases, cars are unlocked. This makes it easier for the addict to get the money to buy more drugs.
Ryder also encouraged residents to report any drug activity — anonymously, on the Police Department’s social media pages, or on its tipline, (800) 244-TIPS.
This week, New York state announced that public libraries could now implement their own opioid overdose-prevention programs and administer naloxone in library facilities to save a life.
Local legislator gets involved.
Also speaking at the public forum was County Legislator John Ferretti, whose district includes the Levittown area. He grew up in Levittown, and said there was no other place he would want to raise his own family. He also said he advocated for state legislation that would charge any dealer whose drug sale led to an overdose death with homicide.
NCPD Deputy Inspector Christopher Ferro, of the department’s Major Case Squad, spoke about the county’s diversion program, in which defendants with substance use disorder are offered treatment rather than incarceration, saying police don’t want to put sick people in jail. “We want drug dealers to be looking over their shoulders and see us coming,” Ferro said. “Every overdose is attached to a dealer. Our goal is to hunt them down.”
He told the audience that those who might find themselves at the scene of an overdose should not touch drugs or anything else that could be evidence of a crime. “Don’t clean up,” he said. “We want to process the whole scene.” And, Ferro added, “Make sure you lock up your medicine. If not for your child, do it for someone else’s.”
Finally, the staff of the YES Community Counseling Center, in Levittown, spoke on behalf of the Levittown Community Action Coalition, which works with school officials, parents, community leaders, Girl Scouts and law enforcement to promote drug abuse prevention.