From overdose deaths to drug dealing and car break-ins, Watertown first responders have seen an alarming increase in the use of heroin in town and problems associated with the drug.
Last year, Watertown had eight deaths from overdoses on heroin, Town Councilor Tony Palomba said Wednesday night. Police Chief Edward Deveau said his officers and other departments have seen an rise of use and overdoses.
“Last year in Middlesex County there were 53 deaths (from heroin overdoses),” Deveau said. “There have been 40 in the first two months of this year.”
Steps are being taken to try to prevent deaths from heroin and opiate overdoses, said Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio. In February, the Watertown Fire Department began carrying Nalaxone, a drug used as an antidote for opiate overdoses, on every fire vehicle (click here to see more details).
“I don’t think we had them on our apparatus for more than 24 hours before we had our first save,” Orangio said.
Along with the overdoses, heroin has had other impacts in town, Deveau said.
“Most of the car break-ins are related to kids doing drugs. Most of the home break-ins are related to drugs,” Deveau said. “Other crimes, we have not seen a major increase.”
Deveau wants to bolster the Police Department’s detective division in hopes of making more of an impact on reducing the use of drugs and related crime.
The police have been shorthanded, which means it cannot send an officer to be part of the Suburban Middlesex County Drug Task Force.
“When we have reports from residents of drug dealing in their neighborhood we have to call in officers from outside agencies to do the busts,” Deveau said.
Help may be on the way. The town will fund one additional police officer, and Deveau has applied for funding to hire three more officers from a grant U.S. Department of Justice (click here for more information).