Local prosecutors say they are using a new high-tech mapping system to help search out drug dealers involved in fatal overdoses and to get overdose victims into treatment faster.
For some time, police departments have been preaching about treating overdose deaths and overdose sites as crime scenes in order to take down the dealers who supplied those lethal drugs. At the same time, departments are pushing those recovering overdose patients into treatment.
A new computer system is allowing both.
The new ODMAP system lets an officer at the scene enter data into the police car computer, sending it into a mapping database according to standardized protocols for processing an overdose scene. That database can then be used by law enforcement and drug treatment agencies that work with survivors.
U.S. Attorney James Kennedy said standardizing protocols in a partnership between law enforcement and public health is a "one-two punch" in the war on opioids. He said the crisis cannot be solved by prosecution.
"That does not mean that law enforcement has no role in the fight," Kennedy said. "To the contrary, although we can all agree that treatment is the appropriate way to deal with those who are addicted to these substances and these poisons, we can't lose sight of the fact that prosecution is the appropriate way to deal with those who are addicted to the profits that come from selling this poison."
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said dealers need to be treated differently.
"The ones who are peddling this poison throughout the community and who are literally killing our residents, they are not here to be helped," Flynn said. "They are here to be put in jail and the protocols that we've established yesterday, as J.P. said, every law enforcement here in Western New York has signed on to this program."
Earlier Wednesday, Federal District Judge William Skretny sentenced Carlique DeBerry, 40, to a mandatory 20 years in prison after her conviction for distribution of fentanyl that caused the death of a Hamburg man. His mother found him slumped over dead in a chair in February 2016.
Prosecutors said the victim thought he was buying heroin, according to cell phone records. Police arranged another drug deal with DeBerry, which led to his arrest.