The Manchester Police Department is launching an aggressive war on heroin. It’s one of—if not the biggest—contributor to crime in the Queen City.
In an NH1 News exclusive, MPD’s top cop talks about his mission to clean up the city.
It’s been a while since Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard patrolled the streets—as an officer—but that doesn’t stop him from driving or walking his way through some of the Queen city’s roughest neighborhoods.
“You have to assess it in real time. You can’t sit behind your desk and lead,” says Willard
As Manchester’s newest leader, his main focus—wiping out the heroin problem.
“When we go to Little League fields and sweep it for needles about an hour before game time, before the kids are to report, you know, that’s telling and it’s sad, really sad,” says Willard.
“Every call that officers go on now, any person that they deal with—particularly if the person is an offender that’s taken into custody—the officer’s first priority, aside from the person having a weapon, is to check whether or not they have a needle on them,” says Willard.
It’s a serious health and safety issue for police and for the community. 80 to 85 percent of police calls for property crimes in Manchester are heroin related.
“So they start stealing from their family, they start writing bad checks. It leads to property crimes. It evolves into burglaries, and when it gets so desperate, and the addict has gotten to the point that their addiction requires a certain amount of drugs, that’s when they start committing robberies, because they need as much money as they can, as quickly as they can to feed their habit and that’s the dangers of it. That’s like the anatomy of a drug addict,” says Willard.
As he explains—a call comes in. An attempted robbery at a Dunkin Donuts.
As police search for a man armed a knife, Willard shares his second goal for his tenure as Chief of MPD—build a stronger relationship between the people and police.
With the increase in high-profile deadly police encounters across the country, he knows it’s a challenge.
“In certain neighborhoods, there are certain individuals who have certain experiences with law enforcement that we’ll never cross that … trust. They’re not going to think you’re anything but worthless or a thug,” says Willard.
But that doesn’t keeping him from trying to change that narrative, one conversation at a time.
Stay tuned to NH1.com for more from Chief Willard’s interview and ride through Manchester.