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Heroin: The Nightmare Is Here in the Hamptons

Stop the denial. Become proactive.

(After the news concerning Jon Bon Jovi's daughter heroin situation I thought I would re-release this article. It is meant to wake people up from the "not my child, not our schools" frame of mind)

There has been much discussion in recent times about high taxes, disappointing real estate growth, and high unemployment. There is no denying that these are real issue which rightfully deserve our attention. Unfortunately, our concentration on these pressing issues may have allowed the growing heroin epidemic, that is plaguing our young people in Suffolk County, to slip under the radar screen for far too long.

Just last year, while doing some research for another article, I stumbled across the eye-opening story of a bright 11th grade girl from East Hampton, who expressed her disgust that heroin was openly in use at a party she recently attended.

Although in the past few years there have been some arrests in the town of Southampton directly related to heroin trafficking, when I reached  the East Hampton and Southampton Town supervisors on this issue a few years ago, I basically got a “no comment,” response. I found this particularly disturbing, since in the past, they have always given me pages of great quotes for town articles.

However, New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele was very forthcoming when asked about the growth of the trafficking and use of heroin on the east end, particularly among our teens. He said, "I think...not just on the East End...but across Long Island...and apparently for awhile now... based upon what I’m told.... (heroin usage is up among teens) for a few reasons...(1) it’s cheap...even compared to cigarettes these days...(2) there seems to be a generational amnesia about this drug...with all the focus on educating kids about other drugs....heroin has been in the background as far as prevention...(3) it seems kids are snorting and not shooting the drug...which apparently has taken some of the stigma away from heroin as the drug of the hard-core addict. It’s a real problem...the focus needs to be on treatment and education more than criminal penalties.”  

I also spoke with Jennifer Maertz, a Long Island attorney, and the former candidate for the New York State Senate seat that encompasses most of the East End.  Ms Maertz is a concerned advocate in this field and said, “Long Island children are becoming casualties of our economic circumstances on so many levels,whether it's a fear of further real estate depreciation or financial cuts to our state police efforts to curb drug trafficking. We can not address this crisis while ignoring its realities. This needs to start with our local state representatives confronting this crisis head on. The first step is admitting you have a problem!”

The way the town of Southampton is addressing the problem (I believe unsuccessfully) was explained by Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi. He released this statement for the original article I wrote on this issue saying, “Substance abuse in our community is an unfortunate reality that the Town continues to address in several ways through education, programming, and enforcement.  The Town’s DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program continues to work with local elementary schools to educate children about the dangers of drug and alcohol and provides them with the skills to resist peer pressure and avoid involvement with gangs and violence.  Our Youth Bureau is able to develop programming based on results from their Teen Assessment Program (TAP) Report, which surveys middle and high school students in our community to identify risk factors, what types of substances are being used and the frequency in which they are being taken.Our Police Department has a Street Crimes Unit whose primary function is narcotics investigation and targeting those selling drugs in the community.  They also offer a Citizens Police Academy where parents and other members of the public can learn to identify different drugs, how they are packaged, and how they are used. For those who find themselves in trouble with the law due to drug related issues, The Town offers a Drug Court rehabilitation program as an alternative to traditional sentencing for non-violent drug offenses. We must continue to build upon these efforts in order to address what we know to be a persistent problem in our community."

Some social workers have been making the point that access is no longer a problem with the drugs sold within close distance of the schools and in the teen's own suburban neighborhoods, eliminating drives into Harlem, as was necessary back in the days of Heroin King Nicky Barnes. Another factor fueling 21st Century heroin use came with  the elimination of the need to inject it, since it is now available in a $5 bag of snort-able heroin, which has become the popular choice among today's teens.

An east end social worker,who wishes to remain anonymous said, “Parents may not immediately notice that their children are using. At first, their teens seem docile and compliant, making usage hard to detect. Then the drug and its addicting qualities take over. Family jewelry and money start disappearing. Later,the need for additional cash leads to other crimes as well.” Drug dealing, home invasions,purse snatching,and as Ms. Maertz pointed out to me, heroin use even accounts for the recent rise in bank robberies committed by teens. And one mustn't forget that already this year in Suffolk County, a grandfather shot his drug-addicted grandson because the young man was shaking him down for money.

Now, let's get down to some attention getting raw numbers about this problem that were brought to light in two bust within the Town of Southampton in the last year. The first one occurred  when the East End Drug Task Force netted 4,430 bags of heroin packaged for street sale, as well as $173,000 in cash.  Most alarming was when Suffolk County’s DA, Thomas Spota, announced that he estimated that this drug ring brought 125,000 bags of heroin, worth almost $3 million, into eastern Suffolk County in a year's time. It's shocking to think that a minimum of 125,000 bags of heroin was consumed by Suffolk County residents, including school children.  When another bust occurred, DA Spota, claimed the arrested ring was bringing in 15,000 bags of heroin per week.  That comes to 180,000 bags a year, up from his previous 125,000 bags of heroin yearly figure that was stated less than two years ago. That’s an astounding 3,265 known bags of heroin being used in Suffolk County a week.  Cheaper than Pot, cheaper than cigarettes, cheaper than beer, with no ID card needed, a new lost generation of children are doomed to the abyss of a drugged-addicted existence.

Growing up in the mid to late 1960s, I can remember that not a month went by without  a local school losing a student to heroin.  The memory of those sad days was stirred last week, when a grieving mother called my home to tell about the death of her 18 year old son son and his best friend -- both due to overdoses of heroin.

Silent no more — the time has come to take our collected heads out of the sand, face this very real and ever-growing national epidemic, and save our children.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Linn November 21, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Thank you for writing about this, TJ. I'm not sure the community is comprehending how much of an issue this has become. Heroin is just the start of it. I continue to hear from young people about "molly, roxy, and heroin" use in the area. Too many people are losing their lives and dismantling others because of these drugs. Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic across the country. Ultimately, there needs to be major changes on the federal level, but we need to start doing something for our community now.
Ian Grossman November 21, 2012 at 10:22 PM
T.J. I commend you writing this article and making people realize that this drug is around the Hamptons. Unfortunately it's not only Heroin, any drug someone can think of is out here. I am thankful everyday that my son hates all drugs and alcohol. He yells at me for smoking because nicotine is a drug. In my lifetime I have seen what drugs can do to someone and except for a very few who can change there lives, drugs kill slowly and ruin lives quickly. Your blog should be out in the forefront everyday to remind people that drugs are ruining everyone's quality of life, even for those that don't use them.
T.J. Clemente November 21, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Thank you both Ian and Linn for both reading and commenting on this most serious issue. I am hoping Patch puts this one up on all it's Suffolk County Patches, because like you both I feel this issue needs to be front and center and discussed.
Jaguar-Guy November 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Good story and an important one these days. Today's drugs or choice are not pot and coke. It is prescription meds (which you'd think are harder to get), and designed drugs. Younger and younger kids are trying more and more dangerous things. If you have a child, any age, you need to be aware of everything going on, and everyone around your kids.
T.J. Clemente November 22, 2012 at 03:54 PM
As a teen myself I watched Heroin kill on the high school level and on the college level, I saw people I knew, talked with die. This issue is buried, many drug deaths are listed as something else, to protect families. A young man, O'D, was found dead on my block laying along the street and it was never in any newspaper.
T.J. Clemente November 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I must mention this happened in East Patchogue.
Stinker November 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Can you stop acting like its 1954? Its not big news that there is an opiate prescription drug epidemic and a junkie lying in the street isn't exactly newsworthy.
Whale Ofaguy November 23, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Stinker's facts stink; pay no attention. The reality is that drug rehab centers are bulging with heroin users as they have been for the last 5 years. These are LOCAL FACILITIES filled with LOCAL PEOPLE including kids and young adults. We find smack-tainted syringes in places you wouldn't even want to imagine in this Town. Of course, when your Republican Town Board members allow their Street Drug Unit to be part of the problem, you can't expect it to get any better. Billy Wilson tried to clean it up and look where that got him.
Meadow Lane November 23, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Get rid of Nuzzi, Malone. Bring back Wilson.
Jaguar-Guy November 23, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Thank you for pointing that HUGE fact out Whale. Heroin IS the drug of choice these days, if available (which it is becoming more and more available with the rise of local gangs), and once taken, they are hooked and familes then fall apart from all the damage following.
Stinker November 23, 2012 at 06:34 PM
The premise of the article is completely void of any logic or reasoning whatsoever, but you can have your kneejerk response. Do you really think that our concentrating on high taxes and our real estate prices has allowed this issue to slip under the radar? Do you possess so much guilt as to allow this nut to imply that your focus on material things have allowed your loved ones to fall into a life of shooting galleries? C'mon, you deserve better.
T.J. Clemente November 23, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Yes Stinker I think people concerned about Real Estate value suppress articles like my blog being reported. Stinker I know for a fact advertising Sensitive east end publications BAN reporting of this iSsue because it pisses advertisers off. When there is only so much space for editorial, this stuff goes out first. I think that STINKS.
Stinker November 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Then next time write an article about how far you and your fellow media reps have fallen on your responsibility to report the truth. Don't indict everyone for having their collective heads in the sand when in fact the problem was with fraudulent media hacks and your/their ilk. Glad we could get the bottom of what your issue was.
leslie November 26, 2012 at 03:43 PM
NOW you are realizing this!!! Wow this is sad that after how many years and this is getting printed now, why not BEFORE ????
leslie November 26, 2012 at 03:50 PM
And to add to this statement, If the parents today would pay attentio to the kids and spend time with them they would KNOW what is happening with THEIR kids, Instead of Buying them EVERYTHING they want and spend TIME just QUALITY TIME with their kids and stop keeping up with "the Joneses" (oh my neighbor got this so lets get one bigger and better) teach their kids RESPECT and BE A PARENT instaed of an ATM then this wouldnt happen

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