New York City’s seemingly ever-dropping homicide rate has been something of which to be proud for years now. Last year, 328 people were the victims of homicide, a number that was the lowest since the NYPD starting keeping track of this type of figure in 1963. (Which, side note: Doesn’t that seem awfully late in the game to be tracking annual homicide rates in a city like New York? Why, yes. Yes, it does.) But while the ongoing drop in homicides corresponded to similar decreases in crimes like grand larceny and assault, one troubling statistic is on the rise in New York: heroin overdoses. In fact, for the last two years, fatalities from heroin overdoses have outpaced the city’s homicide rate.
The New York Daily News reports that while “exact numbers for last year were not available, but 420 people people died from heroin overdoses in 2013 — when there were 335 homicides” and police commissioner Bill Bratton confirms that “heroin deaths outpaced murders in New York for the second straight year in 2014.” Last year, law enforcement seized over $300 million worth of heroin, and this year is shaping up to bring in an even bigger haul: “In the first quarter of 2015, the DEA alone has already taken nearly 220 pounds of smack off the streets — equaling the amount they seized in all of 2014. The office of the special narcotics prosecutor has seized an additional 120 pounds of heroin this year.”
James Hunt, a special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division, says, “We’ve never seen these numbers, not even in the heroin epidemics from 30 to 40 years ago.”
The areas of New York most plagued by this latest heroin epidemic include “Fordham, Tremont and Mott Haven in the Bronx and Tottenville and Willowbrook in Staten Island”—these five neighborhoods had the most heroin-related deaths in 2013. The rampant heroin use on Staten Island means that all the borough’s police officers are now mandated to carry Naloxone, “a nasal spray that helps revive victims suffering from a heroin” overdose with them, a measure which, the News notes, “has been credited with saving 11 people in the first three months of 2015.”
The increase in heroin consumption is not just a problem in New York, statistics indicate that fatal heroin overdoses have increased by 500% in the last fifteen years, with the dramatic increase most prevalent among male users. And heroin isn’t the only opiate which has led to more and more fatalities: deadly prescription drug overdoses have also risen dramatically.
Naloxone can also be used to revive people suffering from prescription drug overdoses. Hopefully, the carrying of Naloxone will soon be a requirement for police officers in all five boroughs, and, indeed, nationwide.
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