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