More people are overdosing on heroin in central Virginia. Six people have died in Culpeper and Orange, Greene, Madison, Fauquier counties already this year.
In addition to hurting addicts and their families, heroin abuse can lead to an increase in property crimes when those looking for a fix steal from others.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County police say they are on the lookout for signs of a growing heroin epidemic.
“Basically it is an increase in heroin that starts in a lot of larger cities and begins to filter down,” said Lt. Ronnie Roberts with the Charlottesville Police Department.
In central Virginia, the closer you live to a major city like Washington, D.C., the more heroin abuse there is. Virginia State Police report 20 overdoses and six deaths in areas of central Virginia closer to D.C.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County law enforcement say there are no known overdoses officially from heroin, but they believe abuse is on the rise.
“We are looking at heroin in the area. We have anecdotal evidence that it is in our area now and that there are some distributors in our area,” said Lt. Todd Hopwood with the Albemarle County Police Department.
Hopwood oversees the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) task force. He says heroin has become cheaper than painkillers and prescription medications so people addicted to those are turning to heroin. And sometimes, that leads to other crime.
“Serial burglars - that type of thing - have been linked back to people addicted to painkillers with the transfer over to heroin and meth. We do see an increase in property crimes as people try to feed their addiction,” Hopwood said.
The drug is so addictive people who use it have a hard time quitting. But it’s not the addicts law enforcement wants to find. Hopwood says JADE is targeting those who sell heroin.
Law enforcement says they only know the tip of the iceberg because doctors are not required to report overdoses in Virginia.
Earlier this month, Governor Terry McAuliffe created a state task force to examine the dangerous epidemic.
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