Articles Posted in Heroin

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drugs-908533_960_720The Baltimore Police recently announced the completion of a fairly large heroin bust, which led to two arrests and the recovery of drugs, cash, and a firearm. This particular bust was not the product of a long-term police investigation, but rather it was based on a tip from a concerned Greenspring Avenue neighbor in the northwest part of the city. Metro Crime Stoppers received the tip and relayed it over to the police for further investigation. Officers staked out the home of the alleged drug dealer, and then followed him as he drove away. A short time later cops made a traffic stop of the suspect’s vehicle, and conveniently had the K-9 unit on standby ready to conduct a drug sniff. After the dog hit a positive on the car the man was taken into custody while the police sought a search warrant for his home. The warrant was signed and upon executing the search police found 4 kilograms of heroin valued at upwards of $400,000. State and local police officers typically use the street value of the drugs in their reports and press releases, which is based on the optimum profitability achieved by selling small quantities. City police officers also seized $80,000 cash and a stolen handgun from out of state. There is no final word on whether the dealer will be charged in Baltimore City, or whether the feds will take on the prosecution.

This recent drug bust comes at an interesting time for crime fighting in Baltimore City. The police department has consistently stated a desire to focus their efforts on combatting violent crimes such as robbery, assault, and murder. The violent crime rates in the city are alarmingly high and have shown little signs of improving. On the other hand there is no chance the police would fail to act on a large-scale drug tip. These busts generally create positive news headlines for the department, while at the same time taking well funded and often well armed criminals off the street.

Anonymous tips do not always pan out and are sometimes an invitation for the police to violate a person’s rights, but it seems that this particular case was handled by the book. It is always suspicious when cops are performing surveillance one minute and the next are conducting a traffic stop with a K-9 unit on hand. But these so called pretextual stops, where a driver is stopped for a minor (or made up) traffic violation for the sole purpose of advancing an unrelated criminal investigation, are legal under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. The only requirement is that the traffic stop be legitimate, which obviously gives police way too much leeway to see things like a suspected drug dealer “rolling through” a stop sign, making a right on a red arrow, or going 11 over the speed limit. But challenges to the traffic stop will usually fall on deaf ears on the bench, and as long as cops wait for a search warrant the evidence will usually be held admissible. Police are well aware that suspects are most vulnerable when they are on the road due to numerous automobile exceptions to search and seizure rights. This is why many of the largest drug busts begin as a simple traffic stop.

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pills-943764_640Maryland law enforcement’s war on heroin has reached new levels, as one county recently conducted highly questionable road checkpoints targeting the dangerous drug. The checkpoints were set up this past week on various thoroughfares in Harford County including Route 1, Route 24 and Route 40, which police classify as high volume drug trafficking routes. The trafficking designation is more a result of these roads being the major thoroughfares in and out of town and for the high volume of motorists they carry, but police seem to enjoy their labels and designations in order to stir up support for their operations. The checkpoints this past week produced ten arrests, with four of those being drug related. The arrests yielded marijuana, prescription pills, drug paraphernalia, a switchblade knife, and $7,000 in cash. The questions being asked in the wake of these unorthodox checkpoints are many, and include whether the efforts of law enforcement were worth it and whether their tactics were even legal.

The Harford County Sheriff’s Office ran point on the checkpoint with the help of numerous other agencies such as the Bel Air, Aberdeen, and State Police departments. The transportation authority police, who always jumps at a chance to get involved in highway related drug trafficking busts also helped out. Cleary there were abundant law enforcement efforts devoted to the checkpoints, which means thousands of tax payer dollars and manpower resources that were unavailable for other tasks. In addition a couple thousand motorists were subjected to police intrusion as they moved innocently about. It’s safe to say that these checkpoints were not even close to being worth four drug arrests, some cash and a switchblade. DUI checkpoints are notoriously ineffective at achieving their goal and this makeshift heroin checkpoint seems even worse. The amount of police manpower it takes to run a checkpoint never adds up to actual arrest numbers, and the prevention factor is all hypothetical. The dozens of officers working these checkpoints would undoubtedly have made more arrests if they were simply working standard road patrol shifts. Not to mention avoiding the in your face police state law enforcement tactics that should only be used in extreme circumstances.

police-224426_640The question of the drug checkpoint’s legality is slightly more complicated, and despite gaining the State’s Attorney’s approval the checkpoints may have been unconstitutional. This means that the 10 arrests might not produce any convictions for prosecutors. Drug focused checkpoints have been declared unconstitutional in the past, and DUI checkpoints have numerous requirements that need to be met in order to be deemed legal. Cops in this particular operation tried to distinguish their actions from DUI checkpoints and argued that no motorists were actually randomly stopped. But judges, and especially federal judges, frown upon police activity that tries to outsmart the constitution and the case precedent that interprets it. The makeshift checkpoints may not have mirrored the intrusions of standard DUI checkpoints, but this doesn’t mean that police can avoid checkpoint requirements for legality. One Harford sheriff said the operation was nothing like a DUI checkpoint, which is a naïve and juvenile statement considering the first thought in everyone’s mind was to compare this week’s operations to DUI checkpoints. The Blog may post a follow up article if we see more of these controversial drug checkpoints pop up around the state.

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gelcap.jpgDrug and alcohol related deaths have increased statewide over the past few years, and the jump from 2013 to 2014 was so significant that the governor has declared a health crisis in Maryland. The state health department recently released its annual report for this past year, and the numbers are frightening to say the least. Over 1,000 people died directly from drug and alcohol overdoses last year, which represents a 21 percent increase from 2013. More than half of those deaths were the result of heroin, a narcotic whose popularity has been increasing exponentially over the past decade. In his first year of office, Governor Hogan has made it a priority to combat drug overdoses, and he has taken proactive measures such as approving a bill expanding the use of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of heroin. Many police officers statewide, including those in Anne Arundel County, now carry this powerful life saving drug. Chances are that more departments will add it to their officer’s essential police equipment in the future. Ultimately though, the governor’s focus will be on breaking up heroin trafficking rings, and on educating the youth about the dangers of even one single dose this dangerous drug.
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handgun-231699_640.jpgGovernor Elect Hogan is not scheduled to begin his term as Maryland’s top politician for another 6 weeks, but he has already publicized a few of his plans for gun control and drug abuse. The infamous Maryland firearms safety act appears to be safe for the foreseeable future, as Hogan’s camp is on record stating they would not take action to try to repeal the law. On the other hand, the act still faces scrutiny from the federal court system. The hardline gun law was upheld in the United States District Court in Baltimore over the summer, but is now before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The federal appellate judges will examine whether the firearms safety act infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and will consider the briefs of twenty-one different states, including Florida and Michigan, who have filed briefs urging the court to overturn the law. The Governor Elect has not publicized a detailed opinion of the firearms safety act, and will likely wait until he has taken office to do so. But Hogan has been clear thus far that his office will not challenge the incoming attorney general or the predominantly democratic legislature to repeal the law.
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heroindeal.jpgHeroin use throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area has been on the rise for the last few years, and now the national media has taken notice. A recent episode of National Geographic Channel’s television series Drugs Inc., was filmed in Baltimore, and documented just how out of control the heroin epidemic has become in the city. The show dubbed Baltimore the heroin capital of America, and while there is no statistical evidence to support this dramatic claim, there is certainly enough evidence to prove at least the presence of an epidemic. The Blog has posted a few articles about the increasing popularity of heroin, which is attributed to a variety of factors including the low cost and a high supply of the dangerous drug. Stricter regulations on prescription narcotics have also been a major factor in the recent heroin boom, as it has become more expensive and more difficult for drug users to secure their once plentiful supply of oxycodone and other similar narcotics on the street. Doctors and pharmacies have become less inclined to prescribe and dispense these highly addictive painkillers, thus leading to a decline of legal and illegal sales. The television show touched on this fact and also credited increased education and awareness of prescription medication addiction as other factors for lower abuse rates. Less abuse of prescription narcotics may have come at a steep price though, and not only in Baltimore, but also in the surrounding suburbs.
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Heroin2.jpgIn the first three months of 2014 Maryland witnessed a dramatic increase in the amount of statewide drug overdose deaths. From January through March 2014 there have been 252 deaths, 148 of which were related to heroin. The total number is 33 percent higher than the first three months of last year, and remarkably is higher than the total number of traffic fatalities in the same time frame. While the majority of these deaths have occurred in areas such as Baltimore City that are quite familiar with drug overdoses, there have also been a staggering number of deaths in the suburbs. For communities in Ann Arundel, Frederick, and Harford counties drug overdoses are not commonplace, and seem to make news headlines each time they occur. The news headlines generate talk among the public, which in turn places pressure on the police and the government. Police forces around the state have already taken action, placing more emphasis on breaking up drug trafficking rings that deal with dangerous narcotics such as heroin prescription drugs. Additionally law enforcement officers are receiving thorough training on drug overdoses, and are now carrying the anti overdose medicine Narcan in their squad cars. There is no doubt that when the 2015 legislative session rolls around we will see bills specifically designed to address the increased amount of overdoses. But for now the state government has only responded in the form of an executive order from the governor’s office.
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heroin3Yes, Baltimore had Cal Ripken and still boasts one of the nicest baseball stadiums in the country. The Ravens have won two championships in the last 15 years, and are one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. The inner harbor is a global tourist attraction, and the crabs and pit beef are worth a visit alone. But unfortunately these are not generally the first things that come to mind when you ask an outsider about the city. Over the last two decades Baltimore has gained a great deal of notoriety for its high crime rate, and abundance of drug dealers and addicts. Hollywood took notice, as HBO’s The Wire was one of the most popular series in the history of the network. Although it never received a major industry award such as an Emmy, the show’s influence is still widespread. It was Obama’s favorite, and if you ask any 20-40 year old non-Baltimorean what comes to mind when they think about the city chances are you’ll hear something about The Wire. And when gang violence and drug dealing, especially heroin, are the topics most associated with a city then there are problems with that city, unless of course the notoriety is unfounded. But recent statistics back the regrettable perception that Baltimore is indeed on of the heroin capitals of the country.
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