'Snowball' Effect

KPD connects heroin to crime


The reason why an individual may commit a crime varies from case to case. However, in regards to property crime in Keene, there is a common factor in most cases: drug abuse, according to Detective James McLaughlin from the Keene Police Department.

Detective McLaughlin runs the detective bureau, which also includes drug enforcement, at the police department in Keene, New Hampshire. The detective spoke about heroin use and crime to a group of students at press conference held in the Media Arts Center at Keene State College September 25, 2013.

McLaughlin stated, “The bigger issue that we have is that a lot of our property crime in Keene is associated with drug abuse. And in fact all of the recent robberies [vehicle break-ins] that we’ve had, almost all of them had a direct relationship to heroin abuse.”

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore/ Photo Editor

Photo Illustration by Brian Cantore/ Photo Editor

Over the past few years, KPD has noticed an increase in drug use within the community of Keene. According to McLaughlin, “We recognize that at lot of these are poly-substance abuse and not abuse of one type of drug,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin stated that addiction has led to a rise in crime. “They [drug users] just walk into the bank because they need that cash now for their addiction. A lot of our robbers are in such desperation that they don’t even have the decency to use a disguise.” McLaughlin explained that the individuals take a great risk when looking for means to continue with using the drug.

In the past weeks, several vehicle break-ins have been reported to KPD. The numbers go “well over fifty,” said KPD Sergeant Mike Kopcha. Last weekend, more than 20 vehicle break-ins were reported, as stated in an article in The Sentinel Monday, September 30.

Early September 29, KPD arrested Alexander Mellor for allegedly breaking into a Keene resident’s vehicle. Sergeant Kopcha said Mellor had heroin on him at the time of his arrest.

“Common sense makes you think most of these break-ins relate to people trying to get money for drugs,” stated Kopcha. He went on, “Crimes related to heroin use are not isolated cases in Keene.” He indicated the Drug Task Force [Agency of the N.H. State Police] has made many arrests lately, and “most of them were related to heroin.”

Kopcha stated heroin use is a fast-growing problem in the community. “In the five years that I have been working here [KPD], if there is a issue that is raising, that would be heroin, it is a huge problem in the city.

But, what makes heroin so dangerous?  “Heroin captures a person,” McLaughlin said, and makes them do things they would not normally do. This happens because of the addictive nature of the substance. “Within hours after the drug effects have decreased, the addict’s body begins to crave more. If he does not get another fix, he will begin to experience withdrawal,” stated an article by the non-profit organization Foundation for a Drug-Free World.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labels heroin as a schedule I substance, which means they have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence,” stated the DEA website.

The question remains why heroin has become so popular. According to McLaughlin, price has a lot to do with it. Detective McLaughlin said heroin is a drug that is readily available and cheap. “It can be ten dollars a bag,” he said. Social aspect was another piece of the puzzle he revealed. “Who you trust, associate and hangout [with] can be a gateway to become a user.”

KSC sophomore Connor Smith said he found it shocking how accessible heroin is. “Even for people in low standards of income, it’s easy to obtain. It’s sad that it’s becoming on the rise but hopefully someone can help them out and get them off of that stuff.”

McLaughlin said the majority of people that carry drugs into town come from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Lowell, or Holyoke. Any major highway from the Keene area can access these locations.

In regards to how to treat a heroin overdose, McLaughlin specified there is a substance known as a ‘Narconon drug’ that can be used right at the scene and bring someone back that is dying of a opiate overdose. According to McLaughlin, KPD has used this drug, which is injectable. However, the detective did not provide details on the outcome of the cases.

A student in the audience asked McLaughlin, “Is it worth spending the money, taxpayers dollars, to have the drug if they did the overdose to themselves?” McLaughlin answered, “Yes, because human life is pretty special.”

“You have to almost look at it and think about it as one of your family members and they were in desperation,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin indicated there were not specific trends in heroin users such as age group, certain backgrounds, or financial situations. “When we were looking into these deaths, we had people in the fifties all the way down to people in their twenties.”  He said  most deaths related to heroin are caused because of a default in purity and dosage.

The detective explained that no real background or occupation is to blame for users. McLaughlin gave two examples to prove heroin may attack anyone. First, he referred to a certified firefighter. “He started with a back entry and became addicted to prescription pain killers, legitimate prescription, and then moved onto pain pills and went on to heroin,” McLaughlin stated.

Then he spoke about, “a business owner here in Keene. They had a pretty good business going,” the detective said. “It had been over a number of years, and next thing they’re with all the heroin users and they’re sleeping in an ally and now are in jail in Fitchburg.”

Predisposed addiction was the final component McLaughlin touched upon. “Those addictive behaviors will strive for those harder drugs while those with a non-addictive personality will start out with marijuana or alcohol,” McLaughlin said.

The last question was asked by Terry Clark, a city councilor that attended the conference, asked, “What sort of thing can these people in this room here do to help?” McLaughlin responded, “It is important to support people that you suspect are using drugs. These typically need the support on a one to one basis.”

McLaughlin stated that drug users will often reject help but later they will feel the alienation they have created for themselves. He encouraged students to keep offering the support because users may turn at any point.

KSC senior Rebecca Browning said she believes in addition to person-to-person support, heroin addicts need a rehab treatment. “To have a serious heroin addiction, it’s not something that is easy to lean off of. They need to be isolated and treated,” Browning stated.

McLaughlin said, “Drug abuse or drug violations in our community-we don’t look at it as a police issue, but a public health issue and we try but we can’t arrest our way out of a social problem.”


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com

Haley Erdbrink can be contacted at herdbrink@keene-equinox.com

Share and Enjoy !