For nearly a year, we’ve been on the front lines of the drug crisis to show you how police and policy makers are trying to combat the drug problem.
What you haven’t seen is the impact the crisis is having on the young people in the community – young people using, young people exposed to people using and young people dealing. It’s the ugly truth first responders—from Manchester PD’s Street Crime unit and American Medical Response—deal with every day.
When he’s not visiting Manchester’s Youth Resource Center, he’s on the streets, begging for money, so he can buy a spot on a couch for the night from someone he calls his “street brother.”
“If I don’t come home with money I have to stay outside. If I do come home with money then I can stay inside,” says Cody.
He’s also pleading for opportunity.
“I heard maybe three or four times, get a [expletive] job,” says Cody. “Well, how am I supposed to get a job if nobody wants to give me that opportunity to get experience, to get a job? It’s just a vicious cycle that will never end. Manchester sucks.”
Cody’s struggles on the streets of Manchester began when he started using drugs.
“My drug of choice? Crystal meth. I’ve been addicted to it for almost four years now,” says Cody.
He describes the appeal of a meth high.
“I like the shadow people are cool. You’re supposed to look at them as friends,” says Cody. He adds, “They’re just figures, [waving his hand past the side of his face] shadow figures that go past your vision. I don’t know. I don’t like the drug. There’s part of me that likes it, there’s part of me that loves it. Then there’s part of me that hates it.”
What Cody hates even more is how he had to pay for those drugs.
“To be honest, I used to sell myself to male prostitutes to support my habit,” says Cody. He adds, “Pretty degrading, I know, but it is what it is. You can’t make friends lying, right? You have to be honest with people. So, I’m being honest with you.”
Cody says there are many others like him on the Queen City streets.
“People should help us because we’re really going downhill. Because most of us are probably going to end up dead.”
“Drug addiction is all around us. Just as I am driving the neighborhood right now, I could pick out five or six people right now that are strung out on heroin of some kind,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard. He adds, “I’ve poured so much of my sweat equity in this fight, and when we’re having a record number in February… I don’t know what I am doing. I hate to tell you, it’s frustrating, deflating,” says Willard. “I am at a point, this is the most discouraging, um, thing I’ve ever experienced.”
This, while Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard says the Street Crime Unit is still working hard every day to clean up the streets. So far this year, the Unit’s made 179 drug arrests—152 for possession and 27 for sales. That’s an average of less than two arrest per day.
Stawatz says the number of suspected opioid overdose calls they’ve responded to are on track to quadruple this year over 2013!
“There were a number of children there that from all different age, like 3 to 14 years old plus other family members,” says Rocco Caprarello, Station Manager, American Medical Response.
“It’s sad, you know, especially when there are kids involved,” says Caprarello. He adds, “The kids seem to be dealing with it well. I mean, it makes you think, is this something that is commonplace for them? When this happens, they just go on with their lives.”
And then there are those, like Cody, who are willing to share their stories, their struggles to drive change.
“We should all help each other, you know? There are some people out there that help, you know, but there needs to be more people that show, you know, care-ness,” says Cody.
This is just part one of our series ON THE FRONTLINES – Children in Crisis. As we continue to bring you these stories, we want to hear from you. Do you have a story you want to tell? Questions you want our leaders to answer? Email me or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll keep this important conversation going.