Heroin Overdoses Down over Last Year in Jefferson City

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JEFFERSON CITY - Police here said Thursday they are making progress on the city's perceived heroin problem. Police report two cases of heroin overdoses in the first four months of 2013, compared to 16 in the same period of 2012.

"We like to attribute that to the effort and the education we have put to the public and the amount of arrests and heroin we have removed from the streets, making heroin more difficult to obtain in Jefferson City," said Sgt. Joe Matherne of the Jefferson City Police Department.

For the last year and a half, the police department said it has dedicated extra efforts to combat the heroin problem. That effort included an education plan called "Hope" that focused on the hazards of heroin.

In addition to educating the public, what police called an "aggressive" enforcement has been made to investigate reports of heroin and remove it from the streets.

"We find that heroin is a little more hard to get. It's a little more scarce. We have a little more difficult to buy it from the streets than in the past, and heroin dealers are a little scared to sell because we have aggressive tactics," said Matherne.

The report also shows more cases of heroin are being prosecuted, from five in 2012 to 29 in 2013. According to Matherne, that can be attributed to an increased number of arrests and effort to move cases through, which can take several months and therefore appear in this years statistics.

"I think the progress is very significant, which is why I commended our police officers for the work they do. Because here in the five years heroin overdoses have really picked up in Jefferson City and has been one of our major concerns," said Councilman Larry Henry, who is also a drug court administrator for Cole County and has previously worked as a juvenile drug liaison.

KOMU 8 News asked Henry what the council will do to insure that progress keeps being made on the issue.

"We need to continue to get the word out, to get the dialogue going, as police have done. To tell people how dangerous it is," said Henry "Because this is the future of parents and kids."

Sgt. Matherne also stressed the importance of the public providing information that helps police initiate and progress their investigations. Matherne acknowledged that the positive figures were not an insurance that the problem is gone.

"Trends could change the next week, and heroin could come back but we are ready to put an aggressive efforts back into it," said Matherne.