WMDT 47 NEWS - Heroin is here on the Delmarva Peninsula, and how it's getting here is not what you might expect. In Part 3 of our special report, undercover detectives from the Maryland State Police, the Worcester County Sheriff's Office, and the Ocean City Police Department share the inner workings of this troubling new trend.
They are participating in a multi-agency collaboration called "Operation: Circle of Trust". It started just this past summer in Worcester County.
"We got this huge influx of heroin, where our deals are affecting what's taking place in Ocean City," says the undercover detective from The Worcester County Criminal Enforcement Team. "Their deals are affecting what's taking place in the county. So we knew we needed to unify our efforts on it.
"The cross designation for the Ocean City Police Department to come into the county and assist us, and vice versa...it's worked very well."
The most recent series of arrests happened in late September, with a roundup of 18 suspects. The danger for these undercover officers is often elevated considering the mind altering nature of heroin. "You could take a perfectly rational person," the undercover detective from OCPD tells WMDT, "and when they're addicted to a substance like this, their rational decision making process no longer exists.
"Their decision making process is driven by the hunt for the drug. Some people get so bad to the point that they no longer have a sense of right and wrong, what's correct or incorrect, or a fear of consequence. The difference between a drug buy and an assault or a robbery, is just a deep breath."
"The thing about heroin," explains the undercover detective from MSP, "is these guys have a physical and mental addiction to it. So once they get to that point, they're using heroin just to get through the day. So these guys are going up and down the road driving. They're out, they're working in our community and everything else."
But it's not the kind of organized crime you might be familiar with. The undercover officers say there is no local drug king pin and a hierarchy of underlings. "It used to be that drugs were focused in certain neighborhoods and certain areas; were geographically compacted or restricted to certain places," explains the OCPD officer. "It's just not the case with this drug. This drug has no boundaries."
"It's not an open-air drug market where you can pick a dealer off of a corner," agrees Tracy Simpson, with Worcester County's Drug Court program. "It's a pervasive community problem."
"I wouldn't call it organized," explains Ajene Turnbull, Assistant State's Attorney for Worcester County. "It's almost friends and associates."
Captain Michael Colbert, with OCPD, who is in charge of the Criminal Investigation Division which includes the Narcotics Unit, says the drugs are not being manufactured in Worcester County, "They're coming in from somewhere. They're not being manufactured in Ocean City, they're coming in."
The undercover detectives say what has been happening recently is people are now using heroin together in groups. "The trend is lately, a lot of these users are pooling their monies together and making trips themselves," the county detective tells WMDT, "and bring it back for the rest of their friends."
Worcester County State's Attorney, Beau Oglesby, agrees, saying they make trips to surrounding cities, like Wilmington or Philadelphia and bring hundreds of bags of heroin back to Delmarva to sell, "It is this very social situation in that everyone is participating and cooperating in getting this drug."
Once it's on Delmarva, the undercover officers say it's being distributed everywhere. "We're moving in their world, which is our world," describes the undercover officer from the OCPD Drug Enforcement Unit, "Parking lots, malls, apartment buildings, houses, everywhere you go in your daily life is where drug deals are happening."
We're told this collaboration of law enforcement agencies is not isolated to just Worcester County. There are working relationships between agencies in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. But these undercover officers need your help to do their jobs.
It's your tips on these drug social networks that help them make arrests.
Ocean City Drug Hotline: 410-723-6607
Worcester County Drug Hotline: 410-632-2076
Crime Solvers: 410-548-1776
But drug enforcement is just one part of dealing with the heroin problem on Delmarva. Part 4 of this special report highlights what experts say is "the solution".
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