Fifty-nine people were arrested on heroin charges, including four alleged dealers, over the past week in Massapequa, part of a crackdown in the community especially hard-hit by the deadly opioid epidemic, Nassau County police said Thursday.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the arrests were part of targeted operation based on the department’s new ODMAP technology, which allows police to do real-time analysis on overdose trends, comparing drug use with crimes typically committed by drug users — such as thefts from autos — to respond with heavy resources to a specific area.
“This is the first spot, the hottest spot right now in the county and we’re going after it,” said Ryder, who was sworn in as commissioner on Monday. “We’re going to take it back, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood.”
Last year there were about 600 fatal overdoses in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to official projections. The final numbers are still being tallied.
In Massapequa there have been 87 overdoses, 12 fatal overdoses and 159 larcenies from autos — a crime police say is often committed by drug addicts — from Jan. 1, 2017, to Feb. 27, according to Nassau Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun.
The arrests over the last seven days in Massapequa were capped with public outreach, which Ryder said was part of the county’s overall strategy to attack the opioid scourge. Ryder said the department would use a similar game plan in other hot spots, which he declined to specify, in the coming weeks.
Nassau police officers, including Ryder, and young people in the department’s explorers program, handed out flyers at the Long Island Rail Road station in Massapequa on Thursday morning, urging commuters to lock their car doors and providing warning signs of drug use and treatment resources to seek help.
Police officers from the department’s problem-oriented policing, or POP, and Community Oriented Police Enforcement, or COPE, programs also fanned out in Massapequa neighborhoods with flyers, Ryder said. The police department is also holding a town hall meeting for residents Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the police academy, 200 Second Ave., Massapequa Park, where a drug recognition expert will explain the signs of possible drug use to parents.
The recent opioid crackdown and education program was announced by Ryder, along with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, and other officials at a news conference at the train station Thursday.
“We can’t arrest ourselves out of this opiate crisis,” Curran said. “It takes enforcement obviously, but also education, treatment and diversion — not diversion to game the system, but diversion to stop a young life from spiraling down into the vortex of addiction.”
Robert Priest, 22, a volunteer firefighter in East Meadow, was one of the young lives lost in 2010. His father, John Priest, assistant chief fire marshal for Nassau County, pledged the fire services’ support of the ODMAP program, which he said would provide key information to turn the tide on the epidemic.
“My son was athletic, muscular, he was fit, he was handsome — I’d like to think he took after his father — and he was a drug addict,” said Priest. “And we did not know it. His friends knew it and they kept it a secret. They didn’t want to get him in trouble.”
Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of the Mineola-based Family and Children’s Association, a drug-treatment advocacy group, said the county’s outreach was part of a “unified effort” between law enforcement and the treatment community.
“You end epidemics by getting as much information as you can — that’s happening through the mapping process — and then mobilizing all of those resources to address the problem in a multipronged way.”
The department earlier this month rolled out its Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, or ODMAP, which can be accessed via mobile device by police medics, firefighters, ambulance personnel as well as police narcotics investigators and supervisors.
First responders input the overdose data into the ODMAP app, making the information instantly available to Nassau police intelligence analysts.
The Suffolk Police Department also uses the technology and sent Det. Sgt. Michael O’Donnell of the Criminal Intelligence Section to the White House on Thursday for a discussion on the mapping, said Chief of Department Stuart Cameron.
The technology was invented by HIDTA, or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal program, which officials, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), earlier this week said was in danger because of a Trump administration budget proposal.
“As if we needed any more proof to show how critical Long Island’s federal HIDTA designation is, we now have this massive bust to hold up as ‘Exhibit One’,” Schumer said in a statement Thursday. “Because Long Island law enforcement had the ability to pick up the phone and ask the feds for real-time resources, there are 59 fewer people contributing to the local opioid scourge. We cannot let Long Island lose this federal help because too many lives are at stake, and too many lives have already been lost to the opioid epidemic.”
Police identified the alleged dealers who were arrested as: John Regan, 28, of Tyrconnell Avenue, Massapequa Park, who was accused of selling heroin; Shean Wils, 28, of 43rd Street, Copiague, who was accused of selling heroin; Nicole Kuperman, 22, of Clocks Boulevard, Massapequa, who was accused of selling cocaine and Xanax; and Danielle Kreuder, 21, of Washington Avenue, Bellmore, who was accused of selling heroin.
Attorneys for the defendants couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The 55 others who were arrested for drug possession are being screened by the district attorney’s office for participation in the drug diversion court. The police department declined to release any information on those arrests.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said while her office would continue its “relentless enforcement against drug dealers” it would emphasize efforts to provide treatment over punishment for addicts.
Under state law, a defendant is eligible for diversion court if the charge is not for a drug sale and is a B felony or lower, said Singas’ top deputy, Maureen McCormick. The district attorney also has discretion on other cases.
“For the people who are using, for the people who are suffering through addiction, we’re absolutely giving them other options and making sure we can help them redirect their lives,” said Singas.
Singas said the ODMAP technology and its deployment in Nassau is a prime example of HIDTA’s usefulness.
“It’s real time, we don’t have to wait for toxicology reports,” Singas said. “It’s giving us an accurate picture of what’s going on in the county, and coupled with the intelligence that we receiving during our investigations, we can again, flood our resources into an area to determine what’s going on.”