DANVILLE — It began more than a year ago in Vermilion County, with interviews of suspects and arrested individuals repeatedly indicating an influx of heroin into the area.
Sixteen months later, and the Vermilion Metropolitan Enforcement Group continues to see an increase in heroin use in the county — part of an overall increase in drug statistics for the county.
At the end of 2012, VMEG agents seized 37.7 grams of heroin, a significant increase from the previous year. While the total doesn’t seem large, it should be noted that heroin is usually sold in packages weighing just two-tenths of a gram each. The values are more than $3,000.
Master Sgt. Lisa Mitchell confirmed the total — while not increasing — has dropped little. In 2013, VMEG recorded 33.1 grams of heroin seized.
But while the amount of the narcotic has stayed relatively consistent, the same can’t be said for the number of arrests. Mitchell said the totals continue to go up, from 31 heroin arrests in 2012 to 45 in 2013.
“We have arrested so many more in 2013 for using,” she said. “We’ve caught users on traffic stops with the needle in their arm or getting ready to put in their arm.”
The numbers project another increase this year, Mitchell noted, with 12 arrests in the first three months of the year. Vermilion County’s first encounter with the re-emergence of heroin came in 2011. Ten arrests were recorded in the latter part of that year.
The re-emergence of the heroin drug — which was more well known for its use in the 1970s — has been rapid, to say the least. Mitchell noted that locally the narcotic’s rise in use is second only to the explosion of crack cocaine years ago.
Nonetheless, law enforcement continues to work to stymie the rise of heroin. As a result of the user arrests, Mitchell said VMEG has begun to identify main dealers in the county and has started to work cases against them.