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!
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:
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.
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.
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.