Overall crime is dropping in the 6th Precinct — but one wouldn’t know that by looking at the number of drug arrests.
Fewer crimes are being reported across the board while heroin arrests have doubled in the last five years, according to Suffolk County Police Department statistics shared at a joint meeting Tuesday night of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and Comsewogue Community Crime Awareness Committee. Inspector Bill Murphy, the head of the precinct, said those arrests numbered 148 in 2011 but ballooned to 298 last year.
“And that’s just our arrests,” he said, noting that it doesn’t account for all heroin use. “Those are times that we come across it.”
Comsewogue area residents and visitors from neighboring civic associations vented their frustrations about local drug-related crimes and activity at the meeting in the Comsewogue Public Library on Terryville Road as they received the most recent data about police action on the issue. Despite the overall drop in crime, Murphy said drug addicts are still behind many of the reported incidents in the 6th Precinct.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the serious crimes we have are driven by drug abuse: The people addicted to heroin and they’re so addicted to it, they have to get money to go and buy these drugs,” he said. “They’re doing stickups, they’re doing burglaries.”
The police are cracking down on the drug trade, however. Murphy noted that officers had executed search warrants on three “drug houses” in the past week alone. One of them was in Centereach, where he said cops busted a repeat offender and caught him with 4 ounces of cocaine and 2 ounces of heroin.
“He’s going away for a long time,” Murphy said.
But the police activity is not limited to arrests. Officers also attack local drug addiction when they save people from opioid overdoses using Narcan, a medication they carry that stops overdoses of drugs like heroin, Vicodin, OxyContin, Demerol and Percocet.
Officer Will Gibaldi said at the meeting that in the past four weeks alone, they responded to three overdoses in Port Jefferson and one in Port Jefferson Station.
“We do handle a decent amount of them,” the officer said.
Police have been relying on Narcan so much in the few years since they first got access to medication that the department has stopped keeping track of how many lives officers have saved with the overdose antidote.
“We actually stopped giving statistics on it,” Murphy said. “After we broke the ‘500’ mark, there were just so many of them, it was senseless to even bother keeping numbers.”
For residents who are concerned about drug activity in their neighborhoods or want to report it to the police, Gibaldi emphasized that communication with the public is a department priority, saying, “Our door is always open.”
Likewise, Murphy invited people to reach out to him.
“If you contact me with a problem, you will get a response. You will not be ignored.”