inFocus: Technology is key in policing heroin epidemic

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“It knows no ethnicity, it knows no race, it knows no economic status,” said Thomas Carr, executive director of Washington/Baltimore HIDTA.  “It affects everyone the same way, and it’s having a dramatic effect.”
 
Last year, between January and September, more than 1400 people died in Maryland from an opioid overdose, the majority of which involved heroin.
 
To put this in perspective, this is nearly three times the number of fatal vehicle crashes in the state.
 
Now, first responders carry naloxone, also known as Narcan, to essentially reverse the effects of an overdose.
 
“We’re seeing it administered more and more, on a routine basis,” said Sergeant Jeff Null, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
 
“Never in my life would I have thought 20 years ago we would be carrying that as law enforcement officers,” said Lt. Jason West, narcotics commander for the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
 
West works in one of 28 high intensity drug trafficking areas.
 
The HIDTA program distributes grant money to bring federal, state, and local law enforcement together to tackle this sweeping problem.
 
“Unfortunately, some of the narcotics that are trafficked through here, they’re possessed by the people that are just traveling through Frederick County,” said West.  “Then we also have the cases where people are bringing it into Frederick County, like New York, that far away, and that was the focus of our investigation last year.”
 
“Drug trafficking, just like any other commodity being distributed, goes along the interstate highway system, goes along our rail system, it goes along our postal system, and it goes along with our shipping system,” said Carr.
 
First responders can punch in fatal and non-fatal overdoses into their phone; that information then is transmitted to a digital map.
 
“We developed an app,” said Carr.  “They say there’s an app for everything, well there’s an app for this.  It’s called ‘OD Map.'”
 
HIDTA started using the app at the beginning of this year.
 
Right now, only a few counties in West Virginia and Maryland are using it, but Carr is carrying the idea nationwide.

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