SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 11, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) — Leaders of Utah’s law enforcement community came together Thursday to warn the public of a “heroin epidemic” that’s sweeping across the state like a “tsunami.”
U.S. Attorney John Huber joined Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, Interim Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and members of the FBI and DEA to warn violent drug offenders they will be arrested and prosecuted. However, all agreed Utah can’t simply “arrest its way” out of the surge in heroin addiction and the violent crime that often accompanies it.
Research by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) shows a huge spike in heroin seized in Utah from 37 pounds in 2012 to 250 pounds in 2014. Neighboring states like Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana experienced an increase in seizures but not at the level Utah recorded.
Law enforcement officers say it’s easy to connect the surging number of violent robberies along the Wasatch Front with the growth in heroin addition. “Although we have sympathy for those struggling and suffering with addiction, we have no tolerance for violent crimes committed by addicts,” said Huber.
In fact, Sheriff Winder called heroin addiction “a community problem,” that starts when families “fail to recognize the early symptoms of addiction and fail to take active and aggressive steps to resolve it.”
Winder admitted to having a relative recently arrested for robbery because he’s addicted to heroin. Winder said, “he was eventually found slumped over, literally dying, as heroin coursed through his veins in Pioneer Park. He now sits in my jail.”
Winder and DA Gill are hoping to secure more funding for treatment of heroin addicts. They’d like Salt Lake County to keep collecting the $9.4 million taxpayers approved as part of a 20-year bond to build the present Salt Lake County Jail. The bond will be paid off this year but if an extension is approved, the money could be used to expand services for chronic offenders with addiction problems.
To listen to the entire news conference on the heroin epidemic please click below.