Thursday, March 24, 2016

OP-ED: Heroin Interdiction Team A Scary Success

Sgt. Chris Goshorn pitched the idea of having a dedicated "Heroin Interdiction Team" in Fort Thomas to give extra patrols to areas highways where users traverse on their way to and from heroin transactions. Fort Thomas Councilman, Jeff Bezold, rode with Goshorn and documented his experience. 
By Jeff Bezold 

It's hard to really get a grasp of the situation until you experience it. On Tuesday, March 8th, I was able to see firsthand how bad the heroin problem is and what and who it affects.  What I saw was only stuff you see on television and movies.

When I first heard of Heroin Interdiction Team, started by Sgt. Chris Goshorn of the Fort Thomas Police Department, I was curious. I was curious about a couple things: why the city was spending our resources on problems that happen in parking lots of other cities. Was there really that big of a heroin problem in Fort Thomas? If so, where?

I was aware of the car accident the happened on S. Fort Thomas Ave. last year, but was the incident cause enough to devote an entire team of officers to heroin?  What I was mostly curious of was what is the effect this awful drug heroin (and opioids in general) is doing to our community and how we as a city could do our part in the fight.

After speaking with Chief Mike Daly about doing a police ride along with Sgt. Goshorn we decided on a random Tuesday morning.  This again sparked some interest, I was thinking the time would be a Friday or Saturday night during the peak "social time."  To my surprise it was a weekday (any weekday) starting at roughly 9 a.m. to roughly 5 p.m.

The time spent with Sgt Goshorn (and team) was so incredibly shocking, eye opening, disturbing, upsetting, disgusting and SCARY. I felt I needed to get word out to the community ASAP. So here is a brief review of the day.

9:00 a.m. - arrive to the station to Sgt Goshon preparing his day
9:33 a.m. - we depart after a "pre game" discussion and instruction
9:44 a.m. - we arrive to our first stop at the shoulder of exit ramp to Memorial Parkway
9:50 a.m. - Sgt Goshorn takes off after a suspicious vehicle with a taillight out and drifting in and out of his lane.  The stop was made just past the Southgate exit going southbound.

Summary of stop #1- 2 men, age range 40-50, brothers, stated they were coming from UC hospital and headed back to SE Ohio area.  After a line of simple questions,  Sgt. Goshorn realized the "patient" wasn't treated. The two men then admitted they were coming from the methadone clinic in Covington to receive treatment.

- the driver had a suspended license and no insurance
- the passenger had a bag of marijuana
- car impounded and due to ky state law both men were ticketed for their offenses and picked up by their father.
- no needles or heroin, but coming from treatment

SCARY NOTE - as Sgt. Goshorn was performing the stop, I looked over the guard rail and noticed a needle.  It looked like it was a couple days old, but random.

10:45 a.m. - We pulled away from the stop and immediately noticed a vehicle that was drifting and didn't use a turn signal.

Summary #2 - One man coming from the methadone clinic. The good news he has been off opioids and now seeking treatment. He checked out to be in good standing, congratulated for kicking the opioids and sent on his way.

After this stop we turned around at the 275 bridge by the river and started north on 471, did the loop and came back south on 471. A call came across the radio "any available units in the area, we have a caller stating they are following a vehicle that is driving erratically, speeding and moving across all three lanes of traffic." 

At this point we hit the gas and the hunt was on. Quite frankly I was a little nervous.

Fortunately these guys work on a team and Officer Nick Hoffman was able to stop the vehicle in the emergency vehicle turn around area just before the 275 bridge by the river.

11:30 a.m. Summary stop #3 - One girl late in her 20's from Batavia, was not opening her windows or doors. She was yelling at the officers and was very aggressive in her actions. Both officers were getting out their batons to break the windows. At this time she opened the door and was removed.
After many lies and excuses a female officer from Highland Heights came to assist. Here is what they found:

- One used needle she had "inserted" into a hiding place on/in her person
- One needle in the center console
- One half used pouch of powder heroin
- One very bad case of MRSA. Do you know what this is? If not look it up. Here's an actual picture of the MRSA infected arm with a tourniquet on. Yes, she was injecting heroin driving on 471/275 at 65 mph at 11:30 a.m.

This was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen! 


(WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW)


FTM file. 
So to sum up the morning: three stops, three current or previous heroin users, one which was actively using driving on the highway. The highway I travel on multiple times a day, the highway I travel with my children and the same highway that runs though Fort Thomas.  All before lunch.

12:15-1:45 p.m. - The next two stops were both break light issues and both checked out to be ok.

2:30 p.m. - The sixth stop of the day. A call came over the radio "all units available." Sgt. Goshorn responded and the chase was on.

The situation here was, the Fort Thomas undercover drug unit had an informant in the back seat of an undercover car. The informant himself, actually made the call to 911.  Sgt. Goshorn and I were on 471 North at the time the call came in, but we didn't have enough time to catch up, so the undercover officer had his informant lay down in the back seat, potential risking their cover because the stop needed to be made.

That's how bad this driving was. The stop was made just past the Bellevue exit.

Summary of stop #6 - Two women in their 30's from Maysville and one man from Augusta.
- The woman in the back seat was very jittery and heavily under the influence
- The man and woman in the front seats were, besides the constant lying, somewhat cooperative
- After Sgt. Goshorn and Officer Hoffman pulled the woman out of the back seat she admitted to why she was very squirmy. Well again, guess where she hid her not just one, but two needles? Yep, same as the earlier stop.

Here's what was found:
- Two needles inserted on/in her person
- Three unknown Rx pills
- One potential overdose in the back of the squad car. After they placed her in cuffs and in the back of the squad car she began to vomit. The officers were worried for her safety and asked if she had ingested any drugs. She said "no," but then continued to vomit what looked like a busted ballon. Sgt Goshorn, worried about her safety, then had to get on his hands and knees to  "search" through the thick yellow vomit to see if she in fact ingested drugs while officer Hoffman had to run a sample collection stick through it to test it for drugs.
- All three in this stop were heroin users. The two females had used the previous night and the male said he had not. It was obvious the one female had used very recently.

A random needle cast aside off of 471. This had nothing to do with the stop we were making. FTM file. 

When Sgt. Goshorn was speaking with the male and female that were in the front seat he asked a question that provoked an answer that will stick with me.

Sgt Goshorn asked the female "when is the last time you had anything to eat?" The response was "a couple days to a week."  She had $100 on her and hadn't eaten in a couple days to a week.

During the conversation Sgt. Goshorn had with these two and after every other word wasn't a lie, Sgt. Goshorn was able to get them to open up. The male was a "new user" with a family at home.  He had a very common story, he injured his neck, the prescription for pain pills ran out, but he was hooked. Now he uses heroin because it's easier to get and cheaper. The female was an admitted prostitute that said, "I had a lot of my kids taken away" due to her drug use and profession.

She also said they try not to come through Northern Kentucky to buy drugs because of the reputation that has started. I'm sure this is due to H.I.T.

So what did I learn this day:
1. Appreciation

First and Foremost I would like to thank the FTPD and the H.I.T. for the work they do. I am very proud of Sgt. Goshorn, the heroin interdiction team and the other officers that serve our community. They are making an instant, indisputable impact and the work needs to continue and even expand. We sat idle for six minutes all day and didn't scratch the surface of then addicts traveling through.  We can't deny we live in the epicenter for heroin use. Dealing with opioid addicts is a dangerous and disgusting job. The FTPD hasn't just decided to deal with this problem, but they decided to attack it head on by starting the first task force focusing on heroin.  Fort Thomas is ranked as one of the safest cities in Kentucky and we all would like to keep it that way.

2. Addiction
Heroin/opioids are horrible. People listen up: "DONT TRY THEM".  What would make anyone think "I think I may try heroin to see how it feels." You know the answer; you will get addicted and given time and continued use you will eventually look like a zombie from The Walking Dead. You will do irreparable damage to your body, your soul and your family. You will not amount to anything productive. You will be poor, you will be lonely, you will at some point be arrested. You will catch a disgusting disease and you will die sooner rather than later.

3. Treatment
No one wants the treatment centers in their backyard. There are medications like methadone to help with the addiction, but it seems to me like you are trading one addition for the other.  The closest treatment centers in Northern Kentucky, to my knowledge, is in Covington. When a large population of the patients are coming from Central Kentucky and Southeast Ohio 471/275 is by default the way they will travel.  This undoubtedly brings addicts, either heroin, methadone (or similar) or other opioids through Fort Thomas.

There has been some recent discussion on a needle exchange location somewhere in Campbell County. Some people think this is a good idea because it helps stop the spread of disease, I am not one of those people. Although it may slow the spread of disease, doing illegal drugs is an illegal action and supplying tools to do these drugs is not something I support.

Sgt. Goshorn is a very compassionate person towards these individuals. They all have a story once you can work through the lies. It's an unfortunate situation.  Something that stuck out to me was everyone lied about their usage, but once he was able to speak with them, they opened up and all admitted to how embarrassing the habit is.

4.  How/Who this affects
These people are traveling on 471/275, which usually just a few minutes of travel in Fort Thomas, but how many times are you and your family on that stretch of highway everyday?

5.  What you can do
- If you see any suspicious activity, driving, unsafe behavior call 911
- Pay attention while you are traveling
- Thank these officers for a job well done

Photo credit: Jennifer Fields-Summer. 

Jeff Bezold is a first-term Fort Thomas City Councilman. 

18 comments:

  1. This needs to be duplicated throughout the US. And yes I believe securing our southern border in the US would really put a stop to these very destructive drugs from entering our country. God Bless everyone who is working so hard on this very serious problem.

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  2. Great story, it really gives a good picture of what it looks like for those who are fighting this scourge on the front lines. But, I have to strongly disagree with your thoughts on the needle exchange. The State of Indiana just had to declare a State of Emergency due to an unprecedented HIV outbreak linked to opioid use. Scott County, IN has a population of about 25,000 (which is just slightly bigger than the population of Fort Thomas)and they have had 81 HIV positive tests this year! All from using dirty needles! Can you imagine if Fort Thomas had 50 people test positive for HIV? Can you imagine how EXPENSIVE it will be for the public to pay to treat those cases HIV? The town would be in hysterics. And that isn't event addressing Hepatitis. It is much safer for everyone if clean needles are accessible. The heroin epidemic is complex and requires a whole toolbox of solutions, including a needle exchange. From a basic public health perspective it is a no-brainer.

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    1. Exactly! Jeff Bezold probably doesn't want sex-Ed in public schools for the same reasons. Totally ignorant. People who want to are going to do drugs (and kids will have sex) with or without programs that help keep people safe when they engage in these behaviors. People who don't want to won't. He clearly has not done his homework in reading the research done on cities and counties that have needle exchange programs. There are even places like, Switerland, Germany, and the U.K. (There are others) that have heroin-assisted treatment center where doctors are prescribing clean, synthetic, injectable heroin to opiate addicts who do not benefit from or cannot tolerate treatment with one of the established drugs used in opiate replacement therapy like methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone). These programs exponentially improve addicts' social and health situations, saves money, as it significantly reduces costs incurred by trials, incarceration, health interventions and delinquency. It has also drastically reduced overdose deaths in the countries that have implemented it, as patients take their dose in a controlled, professionally supervised setting, and Narcan (naloxone) is on hand in the case of an accidental overdose- so it SAVES LIVES and increases the chances that they will seek treatment and recover, since these places also provide information about recovery. We can not arrest our way out of this problem. The police know this. Kudos to this task force for trying, but it will not solve anything long term.

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  3. You know the city of Fort Thomas has one of the best grassroots organizations working on the heroin epidemic right there in your town!!! NKYHatesHeroin.Com was born and raised in the city of Fort Thomas, so maybe let your readers know about them. They represent the city very well and have done great things in the fight!

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  4. Whether you think this effort is a success depends on what you seem successful is. Did the police stop and arrest heroin addicts? It is successful in that regard. However, what are the long term implications of this practice? Will arresting heroin addicts treat them for their addiction? No. Will this put a damper on the heroin epidemic? No. Has the arrest and criminalization of addicts resulted in people with criminial records, a low chance of employment, and a negative stigma around them? Yes! Spending resources to arrest and lock up addicts for simply being addicts does nothing to stop or prevent heroin use. The only thing which can is treatment and a support system. I am not saying that an addict which shoots up then crashes shouldn't be arrested nor am i saying that addicts which steal shouldn't be arrested. However, arresting people for possessing a substance which they are extremely addicted to (physically and mentally) does nothing good for them or our community.

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    1. As sad as it is, when they are incarcerated is sometimes the ONLY time they can get treatment.

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    2. Arresting them is a band aid to a gushing wound I agree However, our right to travel on public highways safely, supersedes their addiction. This makes their addiction a public safety issue. There have been numerous serious accidents, including fatalities, on these stretches of interstate, directly related to heroin use. That is a CRIMINAL problem.

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    3. It has long been know that if you do not want to get arrested for doing something wrong, don't go to or through Fort Thomas. If you don't want a speeding ticket, don't speed through Fort Thomas. I have lived 96% of my life in Fort Thomas. It is a safe City and I'm a proud resident.
      Anonymous is missing the point. It's unfortunate that the arrests may not result in curbing the problem, but it works for our City.
      How do I know? Because I was a Fort Thomas officer for 25 years. I started in 1989 as a Fort Thomas Police Officer and we were known, and still pretty much are still known, as a "Don't Drive Drunk" in Fort Thomas city. I recall many a D.U.I. sitting in the back saying, "I knew I shouldn't have come through or into Fort Thomas drunk." See it's a reputation Anonymous. Addicts talk, give tips and help each other do the drug.
      So the point is: Don't go to Fort Thomas or even near it or they will stop you for any infraction and they will arrest you and/or take your drugs.

      I'm now on another side of this battle. As Chief Deputy of the Campbell County Sheriff's Office, I have had occasion to work in the court room. Anonymous, come down and sit in court. It is eyeopening to say the least. It is sad the amazing numbers of heroine addicts that get arraigned and put into the system. All walks of life. See a junkie isn't the stereotype junkie most think of. It can be anyone. And yes, arrest does sometimes help. I have seen the judges impose and grant treatment to many who seek it. It doesn't always work, but darn it, we are trying.

      I commend not only Sgt. Goshorn, but all the officers of Campbell County. All of our department's are on the hunt to stop the flow of heroine users in this county.
      Sheriff Jansen just said to me the other day that it is disappointing that we do not have the resources or budget to hire deputies to work with the H.I.T. squad. I we did, we'd be right out there with our men in blue working on the problem.
      Keep up the good work troops!

      Ken Fecher
      Retired Fort Thomas Lieutenant
      Current Chief Deputy Campbell County Sheriff's Office

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  5. Excellent job fort Thomas I Wish more of the community and surrounding counties would help you out with this epidemic it has taken too many people and enough is enough I'm so glad that we have people like you that care about our community in such a fashion. I have been reading about all of your guyses accomplishments and taking down heroin users and dealers,great job you guys!!!! I could not be more proud. I am a father of 3 young children and it is sad to say that I have seen needles in the Parks my children Play at I'm so glad you are showing these criminals where we stand on this subject Keep up the great work.

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  6. Getting incarcerated doesn't help get treatment, any jail bird knows good n well drugs flow through jail just like that do out here on the streets u can't make some one get help they have to want it there selves no matter how hard u try there still gonna use. they might not drive through ur city mr copper but there gonna be driving through some else's the epidemic is still alive, so wat good does it really do? For starters id take away the needle banks they won't legalize marijuana but they'll give dope head a clean needle and some where to use it? Makes no sense. When u smoke a joint they worst that's gonna happen is ur gonna eat a whole damn box of cereal u ain't delusional ur in ur right mind ur not slobberin and fallin asleep every where, its even been proven THC and CDC help cancer patients.. "Weediquette" Google and watch, itll make a believer out of u to

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  7. I think this is an awesome program. I myself am a recovering heroin addict and would of never gotten that push to get clean had it not been for Officer Faught (Ft. Thomas Police) sending me to jail for the better part of the day. I've maintained sobriety since October and my life is so much better. My kids are home, I'm healthy, and my family and boyfriend trust me again. It sickens me to see so many waste their lives chasing a high. Life is so much more beautiful than that. Great job Ft. Thomas. You're making a difference. I'm living proof.

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    1. Congrats on your sobriety. If you are able, shoot us a message on our Facebook page. Would love to tell your story.

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  8. Wow this article was a real eye opener for everyone who may turn a blind eye to the Heroin epidemic. Kudos to the Ft Thomas Police Dept and councilman Bezold.

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  9. First off, let me start by saying that I respect and admire what police officers do from all cities, counties, and states. Second, you sir with your opinion on addicts is ignorant and very uneducated. Addicts/alcoholics who are in sobriety and are truly working a recovery program do clean up and repair past damages. They do repair their bodies, minds, souls, reputation and good standing within their community and society as a whole. By you saying what you said are condemning addicts to a continuous life of living hell with no hope of RECOVERY and sobriety. Their are addicts/alcoholics that you sir work with and see in the court rooms that have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind, body, and soul. Police officers, lawyers, doctors, jailers, and court workers all in fact have cleaned up there past and are doing well now. There is not just 1 treatment center in our backyard there are 3. 1 for women in Covington, 2 for men, 1 in Dayton and 1 in Independence. FYI not all addicts look like the walking dead nor are they poor or lonely, and get arrested. Addiction/alcoholism does NOT discriminate based on money, age, color, or where you live. I know people from all walks of life and trust me when I say none of that matters. Also, jail does not stop an addict/alcoholic from getting high or drunk. They have to want sobriety. I know these things because I am an alcoholic/addict who is in recovery and I have been sober for a while now. I have Officer Cole of the Bellevue Police Department and Judge Folgers to thank for giving me my introduction to AA years ago but first and foremost I thank God that He put the desire in my heart to want recovery/sobriety.

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  10. PLEASE encourage your addicted loved one to look into Vivitrol shot treatment. it is a monthly shot, no daily visits for methadone, and it is a life saver. it saved the life of my addict who used for 12 years. These addicts are somebody's child. we love them but hate the drug. I am grateful for this new police program.

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  11. I can't believe an elected Fort Thomas councilman would publish an article written so poorly. Jesus.

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  12. Vivitrol isnt a fix for heroin addicts they can still use methamphetamines and cocaine. I have a friend that dis it while using vicitrol and overdosed and almost died.

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  13. Well, none of the treatment options will be available through the courts. Thanks Matt Bevin, everyone appreciates that, especially those who work in the courthouses.

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