Ocean County’s War On Drugs Ramps Up [AUDIO]
Ocean County law enforcement officials have launched a multi-phase approach to battle a dramatic increase in heroin addiction and overdose deaths in its boarders.
Over the weekend, Ocean County's overdose death toll rose to 60 so far this year.
Prosecutor Joseph Coronato says the heroin addiction increase is being fueled by its affordability. Coronato says people, who are addicted to painkillers, are switching to heroin because it's cheaper.
He says prescription painkillers cost anywhere from $20 to $30 a pill on the black market, but it costs just $5 for a hit or a small bag of heroin.
Coronato announced a plan Wednesday attacking the addiction crises through stepped-up law enforcement, the education of middle and high school students and parents in schools, bringing K-9 units to schools this fall, lobbying state lawmakers to toughen drug possession penalties for distributors and to direct addicts to Drug Court.
During his press conference, Coronato presented a film they'll be showing to students on how certain drugs are made as well as a slide presentation showing the declining physical appearance of an addict.
He says he's also planning to bring parents who lost a child to overdose death to share their painful stories.
"We're also in September going to bring dogs into the schools to make sure that there are no drugs in the schools. So we want to make sure that there's no drugs being passed in either the bathrooms, the parking lots, anywhere on school property."
They've also stepped up enforcement by separating and doubling the size of its Special Operations Group into north and south units.
"As a result of it, we're now aggressively working with our informants and we're taking all our leads so that we can find the ultimate supplier of heroin into the county."
The enforcement lead to 19 arrests in four separate warrant raids recently.
When asking where the heroin is coming in from, Coronato talks about its international origins.
However, he says the supply is being driven by a tremendous demand within Ocean County.
"The floodgates are now open where dealers are now constantly bringing in heroin into the county from all different areas. We have heroin coming in from Atlantic City. We've got heroin coming in from Camden. We've go heroin coming in from Newark and from Paterson. It's coming in from the north and it's coming in from the south because there's such a demand here in Ocean County."
Cornato says they'll be also going to state legislators to make changes to the drug laws on the books.
"In the past, the way that they've graded out drugs has always been by weight and I'm asking the legislature to do it by dosages. Right now, that if you had 4,000 or 5,000 packs of heroin, it would still only be a third degree crime which it would be no jail that would be required. To me if you had at least 4,000 packs of heroin on you you're distributing and it should at least be a 2nd degree crime if not a first degree crime."