NH1 News Exclusive: On the Front Lines: The Latest Drugs and Newest Faces of Manchester’s Drug Battle

MANCHESTER – As if heroin and fentanyl aren’t creating enough of a crisis in Manchester, the Queen City is also facing a potentially explosive problem with methamphetamines.

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard

“Whatever the users are looking for, the drug dealers are going to do everything they can to get it to them,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

So, we’re going back to the front lines with MPD’s Street Crime Unit, showing you how this expanding and evolving drug trade is impacting people who call this city home.

 

“A lot of killings, stabbings, shootings, all because of drugs,” says Manchester Native Jessica Corbin

 

“I was born and raised here, this is where I grew up and I’ve watched it deteriorate to what it is now,” says her boyfriend Alan White.

Corbin and White speak to NH1 news as they take one of their last walks through their Manchester neighborhood before packing up and leaving Manchester—for good.

“We’re moving to get a new start, away from all of this,” says Corbin. “We can’t be around it. I have a son.” She adds, “All of my friends can’t seem to grasp onto the concept that they’re losing their lives slowly because of what this drug is doing to them. It’s tearing apart our families and friends.”

 

“It’s hard for me as, particularly the new chief, to hear people that, people want to move out of the city because of crime,” says Chief Willard.

That’s why Manchester PD—along with state police and DEA—are aggressively tracking the addicts and tackling the dealers.

 

“There are some really bad people that are in that mix that are going to do violent things to get money to get their heroin,” says Willard. “They’re still pumping drugs on the street, so to me, that’s no different than if they just hit a corner store at gunpoint.”

In this case, police say the heroin dealer is 16 years old.

“Yeah, I have to be honest, I was shocked,” says Willard. “This 16-year-old is going to be a dangerous character for a long time.”

In the meantime, police are facing a new threat – meth.

“Big in other parts of the country, and they say it’s making a swing this way. So, we’ll have to wait and see,” says Sgt. Chris Sanders, Manchester PD Street Crime Unit.

 

Just hours after saying that, Sgt. Sanders and the Street Crime Unit follow a lead and seize more than 100 grams of meth and thousands of dollars in cash from this Laurel Street apartment.

“This is not what you’d consider for personal use. This is obviously someone distributing,” says Sgt. Sanders.

 

CELINE: “As a police officer, how concerning is that for you to know that this is in your city?”

SANDERS: “Very concerning. We haven’t seen the push with methamphetamine, but apparently it’s made its way to Manchester.”

With more meth, may come more violence.

“For some reason, there appears to be a lot of violence that surround that drug for whatever reason, kind of like the crack cocaine of the early 90s. There was a lot of violence that surrounded the crack cocaine epidemic,” says Willard.

 

“The reason why is probably the amount of paranoia that it causes. It completely distorts your cognitive reasoning, so you kind of find yourself in a fantasy land, so to speak,” says Det. Aaron Brown, Manchester PD Street Crime Unit.

While these street sweepings aren’t pretty, they’re needed to get the job done.

 

“It sucks to see people being taken down on the street like this, but at the same time, it’s what needs to happen,” says White. He adds, “I can only hope for the best that you know all of these people can finally clean up, and this area can maybe get back to normal and get better.”

 

These missions are part of the joint law enforcement initiative called Operation Granite Hammer. In the first 4 weeks, 46 people have been arrested. You can learn more about it on my Facebook page, Celine McArthur NH1 News.

Addiction Front Lines

The heroin epidemic in New Hampshire is something we often hear about, but rarely see. We ride with the Street Crime Unit of the Manchester Police Department to show you what officers are up against every day. We explore the anatomy of a heroin addict. We also expose an issue that makes solving the opioid crisis extremely challenging, if not possible: drug addicts who do not want to sober up and face the harsh realities of their lives. You’ll meet a mother of three who—right after we wake her up on the side of the road—describes her heroin highs as orgasmic. Lastly, as we profile the opioid crisis in the Queen City, a new threat emerges: Meth. It’s the ugly truth of drug abuse.

This story has become part of the national narrative, thanks in part to the First-in-the-Nation primary in New Hampshire. We will explore what is and isn’t being done—politically—on the local, state and national levels. Watch as we travel to Washington DC to follow Manchester’s police chief as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Stay tuned.

NH1 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Taking Back New Hampshire

Preview on NH1 News at 5:

Preview on NH1 News at 6:

“It’s the men and women in uniform, who are getting a 911 call and they’re getting dispatched to a house or a car or a restaurant bathroom—or wherever—and they’re the ones, the first one on scene.  They’re the ones who are going to help us get to a point where we can make that follow-up investigation.” –Jon DeLena, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA

FINAL Jon DeLena
Jon DeLena, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA

The follow-up investigation that leads to the arrest and conviction of people dealing in death. On average, at least one person dies every day in New Hampshire from a drug overdose. 439 overdoses in 2015 and the Medical Examiner predicts that there will be 482 drug related deaths in 2016.

FINAL Emily Rice
Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire

“And in some instances, I think we are going to find that a single dealer is responsible for multiple deaths,” says Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire.

But building cases strong enough to convict the dealers has been a huge challenge for prosecutors and police. We show you how a huge statewide law enforcement initiative is taking back New Hampshire.

FINAL Glen Drolet
Glen Drolet, Northwood Police Chief & President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police

“New Hampshire, for reasons still unknown to us, has been a magnet for heroin and fentanyl,” says Glen Drolet, Northwood Chief of Police and President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. He adds, “It’s a problem that is skyrocketing out of control.”

“When you really work backwards from the call, whether it’s a domestic, whether it’s a hazardous op, an impaired driver, you’ll find often it’s substance abuse, misuse that’s at the root of it,” says Colonel Robert Quinn, Director, New Hampshire State Police.

FINAL Colonel Quinn
Colonel Robert Quinn, New Hampshire State Police

“I’m responding to Brown Avenue and … the highway,” says American Medical Response Station Manager Rocco Caprarello.

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On this summer night in Manchester—the epicenter of the drug crisis in New Hampshire—our cameras are rolling for three overdose calls in three hours. In this case, police had to shut down the Brown Avenue exit from I-293, so first responders could revive a man who overdosed in a car.

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Rocco Caprarello, American Medical Response

“We witnessed what we respond to nearly every day in this city,” says Caprarello.

All three brought back to life, but so far, no dealers have been held responsible for giving them the drugs that could have led to their deaths.

“You weren’t breathing. If somebody wasn’t here, and found you, you could have been a statistic. You could have been dead,” says Caprarello. He adds, “Does that drug have that much effect that they just don’t care and they live for the next time that they can use?”

Chief Glen Drolet says the answer, is often yes.

“Cooperation, a lot of times, is not there. Even when we’ve had cases here in Northwood where level one’s have OD’d, and they wouldn’t provide any information to us, for whatever reason,” says Drolet. He adds, “In a lot of cases, we know 100% that something happened, but it just—you don’t have the last piece you need to connect the case.”

DEA VICTIM PICDEA Assistant Special Agent Jon DeLena spearheaded a comprehensive law and order partnership to better tackle these cases—especially those resulting in death.

“There are ways to put these cases together if we work together,” says DeLena. He adds, “Everybody has gone all in on this.”

That includes the DEA, the US Attorney for New Hampshire, the Attorney General’s Office, New Hampshire State Police, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, and local law enforcement.

“We’re all committed to doing it and doing it right,” says DeLena.

The first step to doing it right—training. NH1 News was invited into this closed-door, standing-room only seminar for law enforcement from across the state.

“Over 400 detectives in a room, looking, trying to learn, why? Because in 2016, we’ve got this many people dying of heroin and fentanyl overdoses,” says Quinn.

They’re learning that in these often chaotic rescue scenes, officers need to think like homicide detectives.  Instead of a knife or gun, the deadly weapon is a needle. These officers have a lot of obstacles, and not a lot of time to recover the evidence they must have to make a case.

Quinn says, “How do we take a cell phone from a victim? How do you look to see who’s the last call? Is there information there that ties the source and supplier to the dealer? What type of questions do you ask? Where do you do the interview?”

And if they need help—DEA’s response team and prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office are just a phone call away.

“They’re available to jump 24 hours a day,” says DeLena.

FINAL Ben Agati
Ben Agati, Senior Assistant Attorney General

Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati says those calls for help and guidance are already coming in.

“I can tell you in the time we’re sitting down talking now, I’ve had six new ones in the last 24 hours that have come in,” says Agati. He adds, “And so the numbers that we’re talking about and the number of agencies we’re trying to help, it’s a massive logistical issue. But it’s one I think we’ve got a plan that we can tackle.”

FOR WEB 2 shot with Emily Rice
Céline McArthur interviews U.S. Attorney for NH Emily Rice

“I think we’re going to find, when we get to the end of 2016, that law enforcement has done an outstanding job in really holding the line and bringing bigger and bigger case. And with the help of this training, and the public’s help, I expect that we’ll see many, many more prosecutions for overdose deaths in the coming months,” says Emily Rice, U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 6.06.06 PMThe public’s help is key. You will soon see this image on billboards in New Hampshire. All of the law enforcement leaders you just heard from say they need your cooperation to the get the drugs and the dealers off our streets.

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Web Extra: Training Day

I had a GoPro on the podium during the training to capture the opening comments from the leaders who came together to provide this law enforcement training. Here are a few clips from the session:

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jon DeLena:

Attorney General Joseph Foster:

U.S. Attorney Emily Rice:

Executive Major David Parenteau, NH State Police:

Addiction Front Lines: Case Closed?

“I want the person who took my brother’s life to pay. He gave, he sold that to my brother. He should pay. My brother paid with his life.” – Brooke Shepard, Manchester

We continue our special series Addiction Front Lines series with a plea from a grieving sister, whose little brother, 22-year-old Dylan Nicolas Shepard, died of a heroin-fentanyl overdose one year, one month and 22 days ago in Manchester. Brooke Shepard and her family desperately want the person who sold him the drugs off the streets. They say they know who it is, but the police case is closed.They asked us to find out why.

 “His name is Dylan Nicolas Shepard…”

 “He overdosed and passed away…”

 “He was 22 when it happened.”

 “I will never forget that day in my life.”

 “He went out to a bar with a friend that he considered one of his best friends. He hadn’t seen him for almost a year.”

 “When they left the club, they walked to a nearby apartment.”

 “They both did their stuff and my brother went upstairs to the bathroom. And his friend –who he did it with – stayed downstairs.”

 “The kid downstairs started breathing all messed up. His brother was there, his brother was shaking him, I guess.”

 “The cops came, the ambulance, they went to him first. Meanwhile my brother was upstairs, passing away. By the time they got upstairs, it was too late.”

 “I feel like there’s no justice. I feel like nothing’s been done. My brother deserves justice. He paid with his life. Now why can’t the other people pay?”

Brooke says the man who sold her brother the drugs confessed to her—in front of dozens of witnesses—just hours after Dylan died. According to the police report, that man told investigators he didn’t use or sell drugs.

“All I can picture is him saying it, that’s what he said exactly. I did, I did.” As she wipes away the tears, she asks, “Why isn’t my word enough?”

Trial attorney Paul Monzione says the answer to that simple question is complicated.

“An admission is powerful evidence. It really is,” says Monzione. He adds, “And it’s admissible evidence. The problem is beyond the one witness—the sister of the victim—testifying that the alleged dealer admitted it to her, it’s a ‘he said she said’ situation that doesn’t meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if there are other corroborating witnesses, objective people who were present, I would expect that a prosecutor would want to have those witnesses come to court and then let the jury decide.”

Monzione says another challenge is a lack of evidence.

“You don’t have witnesses that are available, evidence goes away, and people leave. When someone overdoses, if people are present, you’re going to expect that they’re not going to stick around,” says Monzione.

I also asked Sergeant Chris Sanders with Manchester PD’s Street Crime Unit to weigh in.

“Death resulting cases are very difficult to prosecute,” says Sanders.  He adds, “They have to prove if the drugs were bought from that person. And, that the drugs that they took from that person, are what caused the death. So, they didn’t mix the drug with something else, they didn’t already have something else in their system. They didn’t put something into the drug when they got home.”

Both Sanders and Monzione say there is still a way to get the drug dealers off the streets and bring the victim’s families some closure.

“Someone always knows what’s going on. Somebody is always in the circle of people that are committing the crime,” says Sanders.

“It’s not an easy thing to do. This problem is not easy for anybody, but I think if it’s going to go away, these are the circumstances under which we’re asked to step up. And I think people have to take it very seriously and be willing to be witnesses, to testify to help law enforcement, to help prosecutors do the right thing by the victims,” says Monzione.

“My brother is worth it. He’s worth it. He deserves justice. My mother deserves justice for what happened to her son,” says Brooke.

If you have any information on the overdose death of Dylan Shepard, call the Manchester PD’s Crimeline – at 603-624-4040.

Stay tuned for more of our coverage from the Addiction Front Lines. If you want to be part of the conversation, share your story with me. Send me an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.

 

On the Frontlines: The Children of the Drug Crisis

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.

For 21-year-old Cody Ferry, having a place to do laundry is a luxury. Cody’s been homeless for nearly two years.

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.

“It’s a mess, it’s a big mess,” says Chris Stawatz, Regional Director, American Medical Response. He adds, “I don’t know if we’re going to solve it, but we definitely have to control it.”

Stawatz says the number of suspected opioid overdose calls they’ve responded to are on track to quadruple this year over 2013!

swastika picOn this night, AMR crews are called to an overdose at a Cedar Street home where a 36-year old man is found unresponsive, and sadly, not alone.

“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.

After receiving six doses of Narcan to revive him, the man – and a three-year old girl who may have picked up and pricked herself with his drug needle – are taken to a local hospital.

“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.contact celine graphic

Predictive Policing

MANCHESTER – Police and policy makers – including the white house drug czar – were in New Hampshire Monday trying to find ways to tackle the heroin crisis.

To really understand it, you need to see it first-hand.

That’s where the Manchester Police Department comes in.

They offered a walking tour of the city’s heroin hotspots. Including a downtown area where three active drugs houses were recently shut down.

And now, the police has a new weapon in its arsenal to fight crime.

30-year-old Officer Matthew Barter fights crime in the Queen City, but his weapon is a computer, not a gun.

He’s a Manchester Police Department crime analyst.

His strategy – stop the crimes before they happen using what’s called predictive analytics.

In the 10 weeks the program’s been running, the police said robberies are down 24 percent. Burglaries are down 13 percent, and motor vehicle thefts are down 34 percent.

“It’s the same technology that Amazon uses to tell you what you should purchase next CUT,” Barter said. “That’s what we’re using to leverage in the policing world to identify where crimes are going to happen.”

The right areas may seem obvious – but the timing? That’s the science of stats.

“We take the city of Manchester, and we grid it out into five hundred square foot blocks,” Barter said. “For each one of those blocks, we look at which of those crimes happened here in the past few weeks, what are all the crimes that happened here in the past few weeks.

Is there an uptick in overall crime in this 500 square foot block? What happened during the same time last year?

The results?

“This past week, we had 60 percent accuracy in forecasting for those crimes within 500 feet of where we predicted it.”

Chief Nick Willard says the proof is in the numbers.

“It’s cutting edge policing is what it is,” he said.

But for Barter, it’s all in a day’s work.

So today, when the talk is all about heroin, this is an important process for the police. About 80 to 85 percent of property crimes in Manchester are heroin related.

NH1 News Exclusive: Manchester Police Chief shares his mission to wipe our heroin and improve race relations

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.

Chief Willard Goes to Washington (Part 2)

Manchester’s Police Chief Nick Willard in Washington DC testifying before Congress about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire. We take you inside the hearing to show you how Willard—and other New Hampshire leaders— are campaigning for federal help.

Everyone inside the hearing—Lawmakers, law enforcement, medical experts and victim’s families—in today’s hearing all know that there is a problem. The goal—to come to a consensus on why it’s so bad and how the federal government should support – i.e. – fund law enforcement and public health programs across the country to finally get a grip on the crisis.

“At today’s hearing the committee hopes to learn more about this terrible epidemic,” says Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee.

That’s why the Senate Judiciary Committee turned to New Hampshire leaders for guidance.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” says U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire, (R).

“We are losing more than one person a day,” says U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire, (D).

“We are dealing with the throws of human tragedy everyday, but it’s still a wonderful state,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

Senators Ayotte and Shaheen, along with and Chief Willard all making it clear: The statistics in NH are staggering. Willard breaks down the numbers for the Queen City.

2013: 14 fatal overdoses. 30% heroin and 7% a combination of heroin+fentanyl

2014: 19 fatal overdoses, 22% heroin. 22% heroin +fentanyl and 21% fentanyl alone

2015: 69 fatal overdoses, 33% fentanyl, 26 % fentanyl + cocaine, and 9% fentanyl +heroin.

“We’re finding the vast majority of folks who are suffering from this disease won’t hurt you, they’ll hurt themselves,” says Governor Peter Schumlin, Vermont (D).

Governor Schumlin from neighboring Vermont arguing that the epidemic stems from a decades-long evolution of how people treat pain. Most of the committee and speakers—agreed.

“The FDA, pharma industry the dirty docs, we don’t have to go to the border here to see the source of opioids,” says Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois (D).

“What we haven’t really talked about is medical schools. It is my understanding that most medical schools don’t have any courses on prescribing medication and recognizing drug abuse.,” says Shaheen.

“When New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, the three states in the prescription of the top five pain medications and —per capita—those same three states are the top of five for heroin abuse, I don’t know what methodology they just but it’s certainly not common sense,” says Willard.

Once addicted, Willard argues that the steady of supply of drugs like heroin and fentanyl from outside the US are hampering police efforts.

“So the addiction pool—I agree—needs to shrink because we need to lessen the demand, but the supply most urgently needs to be reduced with great interdiction effort,” says Willard. He adds, “I will say it—our border is a sieve.”

He’s hoping the federal government will fund law enforcement initiatives—like Operation Granite Hammer—to finally get a grip on the crisis.

The hearing lasted an unexpected four hours, with the majority of the Senators on the committee absent. I asked Willard if he still thought his testimony would drive any change.

All I can do is hope so,” says Willard. He adds, “The more we talk about it, the quicker we’ll have change. We just need people to get behind what that change is going to be.”

So, what’s next? Senator Ayotte hopes the committee votes out—The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—that would go to the senate floor and hopefully become national legislation that would help communities in nh and across the country.

Link to my story

Chief Willard Goes to Washington (Part 1)

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard and Celine McArthur in Washington, DC.

Manchester’s Top Cop is in Washington DC preparing to testify before Congress about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire. We talked to him today about what he thinks he can offer lawmakers here and what he’s hoping to accomplish for New Hampshire.

WILLARD: “What was her addiction?”

JANET: “Heroin.”

WILLARD: “Heroin?”

JANET: “We were twins.”

WILLARD: “So, it was your sister? I’m sorry, I am really, really sorry. How are you coping?”

JANET: “I’m not.”

That’s Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard having a painfully honest conversation with a heroin addict. 54-year-old Janet Maset can’t hold back the tears as she shares her struggles and the story of her twin sister who recently killed herself after a long battle with drugs.

“My best friend. My only family. I can’t even imagine how I feel because i don’t even know how I feel, because I won’t let myself feel,” says Janet.  She adds,”People like us need help. They need to be there for us.”

“That’s the face of the crisis, It really is,” says Chief Willard. He adds, “Those politicians who don’t understand it? Those callous individuals that have that stigma that they push out as their narrative that, ‘Hey, it’s their life and they can do whatever they want with it. It’s their fault.’ They don’t know the Janet’s of our society.”

Willard often walks or drives the streets of his city, and talks to people like Janet, hoping to better understand what drives addiction.

“I’m just a knuckle-dragging police chief. I can’t solve it all on my own. I can tell you that much,” says Willard.  He adds, “I partner with a lot of people, not just law enforcement agencies, but also social services, the fire department, the health department, because I really believe in collaborations. Using the resources that you have available to you.”

That’s why lawmakers in our nation’s capitol asked him to fly into DC and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. They want to know what Willard’s learned on the front lines and through his extensive research.

“I was kind of overwhelmed, a little intimidated even,” says Willard. He adds, ”I realized just the gravity of what they’re asking me to do. I just don’t want to let anybody down. I want to be able to go in there and give a perspective and represent our citizens and state well.”

As you can see, this piece was a long time in the making. Many hours on the streets with the Chief Willard and the Manchester PD and many conversations with the people at the core of the crisis. Coming up… the hearing.

Link to my story


The Ugly Truth Part 1: The Euphoric Fog of Heroin

The heroin epidemic is something we hear about, but rarely see, with Granite Staters in its grasp. Tonight, we ride with Manchester PD’s street crime unit to show you what police are up against— every day. It’s the ugly truth of heroin abuse.

For Detectives Aaron Brown and Matt Jajuga, this is their office, with front seat views of the heroin crisis in Manchester.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of years just the absolute boom of heroin in this city,” says Jajuga.

“The problem is, there’s such a supply, obviously the demand is gigantic, it’s like any other product, and business is just always going to find a way,” says Detective Brown.

As we patrol the city’s heroin hotspots, the detectives recognize two frequent buyers—one passed out on the sidewalk!

Detective Brown: “How about this? Jason, yes or no. Do you use illegal drugs?”

Jason: “Yes!”

Detective Brown: “And how about you?”

Megan: “Yes, of course I do.”

Megan also explains why she was found passed out on the street.

“You think having a common cold is rough,” says Megan. “When you come off of heroin or the methadone, or anything like that, you literally can’t get yourself out of bed or wherever you are and it hurts. That’s pretty much why I was laying on the sidewalk.”

 

CELINE: “You were sleeping on a street. How does that feel?”

MEGAN: “It makes me feel … I hate it, I hate it.”

What 28-year-old Megan Bowers loves? Telling me about her three kids—one, seven and ten-years-old.

CELINE: “What are their names?

MEGAN: “Damien, Skylar and Anthony.”

Megan says she doesn’t live with them. Why? Her addiction is too powerful.

“I overdosed in front of my youngest son, so I don’t really know if … He doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s too young,” says Megan.

Megan’s now lives on the streets, and spends most of her time in Victory Park. Her life revolves around doing whatever she can to score.

“I’m out there trying to eat and then (smiles) after that, I am not going to lie, I get drug money,” says Megan.

This year alone, Megan’s been arrested four times.

“I just got out of jail not too long ago.”

Those arrests—all theft and burglary related. Records show she also overdosed back in March and in May found herself— not once, but twice—at the scene of two drug busts.

“Cause like I said, I love it. I love it. I love the feeling,” says Megan. She adds, “It’s like an orgasm. I can’t tell you any different. You stick that needle in your arm or wherever, and that rush that you get, it’s the best feeling in the world this warm fuzzy feeling and you forget about everything.”

Even through the euphoric fog, Megan says she still wants to get clean.

CELINE: “It’s a lonely place.”

MEGAN: “It is. It sucks.”

CELINE: “So, you want another life?”

MEGAN: “I want another life.”

CELINE: “You want another option?”

MEGAN: “I want another chapter in my life. Not this chapter.”

We agree to meet the next day to get her help, and she’s nowhere to be found.

Officer Jajuga follows up with her friend Jason: “Where is she staying? Are you out on the street?” Jason replies, “Yeah, pretty much.”

Meantime, Detectives Brown and Jajuga are back at the wheel, trailing old faces and chasing new cases, doing what they can to clean up the city—one user, one dealer at a time.

Megan’s arrests for theft and burglary related charges – are just some examples of what’s contributing to the crime in Manchester. 85 percent – driven by drugs. Tomorrow night we explore why there are so many users and dealers on the streets—and how the gangs of New York—are in Manchester feeding that demand.

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