UPDATE: This story was updated to include comments from Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck as well as additional comments from Wilmington Police Department Detective Scott Baker.
WILMINGTON — Since 2016 began, two people have died among a total of 12 heroin overdoses in the latest chapter of Wilmington’s battle with the drug.
All 10 of the non-fatal overdoses involved the use of Narcan, according to police officials.
Narcan stops or reverses an opiate overdose, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
All the overdoses occurred between Friday morning and Tuesday, according to Wilmington Police Department Detective Scott Baker.
All occurred in areas throughout the city, according to Chief Detective Josh Riley.
Baker said it will take several weeks for toxicology reports to confirm the deaths by heroin overdose of a man and a woman, but he suspects it was heroin that killed them. Evidence of heroin was recovered at the scene of all the overdoses, according to Baker, and everyone who was resuscitated received Narcan.
“Whether we have a high mixture of heroin and fentanyl, whether we have heroin that’s cut (mixed) with something else that’s really affecting these folks, there’s something with the heroin that they’re using right now that is causing massive overdoses in the city,” Riley said.
Fentanyl is a painkiller “similar to but more potent than morphine,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Compounding the overdoses are an avoidance of 911 and the fact that users don’t always know what they’re buying.
Baker said people are calling 911 faster in the event of an overdose but some are still trying home remedies first, including placing ice cubes in a user’s rectum, to try and shock them out of an overdose.
In a previous interview about a spike in heroin overdoses, Baker told the News Journal that the ice cube remedy doesn’t work and only delays necessary medical services.
Another issue, Baker said, is that drug dealers and users don’t always know what’s in their drugs.
“Most of these dealers, they don’t know what they’re getting,” Baker said. “They have no clue if the heroin that they’re getting is heroin, if it’s fentanyl, if it’s 50-50 cut, 20-80 cut. They have no clue.”
“And then the dealers want their stuff to be the best,” Riley said, adding that they’ll add fentanyl to heroin to make it more potent or they’ll add other substances to stretch out a supply and earn more.
Users, Riley and Baker said, want drugs that get them higher faster, even though it may have deadly consequences.
Baker and Riley said that one of those who overdosed over the weekend said she’d wish she had known her heroin was so “good.” She allegedly said she wouldn’t have used as much if she had known that.
Seeking public’s help
Riley and Baker are asking for the public to help prevent heroin from killing others.
“We’re looking for people to help us with the investigations,” said Baker. “We count on citizens to call us and say ‘This is where the problem’s at.’”
Baker said people can call the police department’s tip line at 937-382-8477 (TIPS), where they can remain anonymous if they wish.
“Report suspicious activity,” Baker said. “Short-period traffic – persons or vehicles going up to a house for less than five minutes.”
Baker said the departments keeps a track of those tips and uses them within the department to investigate suspected drug activity.
“A lot of times, we just need to know where to look,” Baker said, adding that investigations take time. “Once we get a direction and know where to look, we can shift our focus that way.
“Those tips really do help us,” Baker continued.
Baker and Riley also said they are looking for people who are willing to be on-record informants.
Baker said informants should be willing to testify for Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck, whom Baker said has been requiring testimony from informants who previously acted anonymously.
“They’d have to be on the record,” Baker said, though they don’t have to be Wilmington residents. “It’s no longer confidential.”
UPDATE: Rudduck said that he orders a confidential informant to go on-record in response to requests from defendants, who he said may have the right to examine that witness.
“Used properly, there’s room for confidential informants,” Rudduck said. “(To reveal them) there has to be a motion filed, and if the defense can show some reason how it might aid them, I’m going to grant it.”
Wilmington Police Department Detective Scott Baker said revealing an informant is done at the judge’s discretion, though Rudduck said he receives guidance from higher courts than his.
“The Supreme Court said that (an informant) is fine, but if it will aid the defense to know who that is so that person can be called and testified, the court has to grant that disclosure,” Rudduck said.
Rudduck said that other counties’ law enforcement do reveal their confidential informants before a case. That said, Rudduck said prosecutors and police can try to protect an informant by not calling on them as a witness or dropping charges involving that informant.
Baker also said police tell confidential informants they’ll do what they can to protect their identity.
“We do our best to make sure they’re protected,” Baker said.
Additionally, Rudduck also pointed to a recent 60 Minutes report, which demonstrated potentials for abuse by using confidential informants.
“There’s a monetary incentive to frankly set people up. So, you end up seeing individuals turn on each other,” Rudduck said. “There’s abuse potential.”
Baker agreed there is potential for abuse and crime, which is why he says police work diligently to prevent both.
“Anytime we do a drug deal with C.I.’s it’s always done with an undercover police officer,” he said. “We’re diligent. We do not rely solely on the C.I.”
When someone is found to have committed a crime – such as pocketing some of the drugs involved in an undercover buy, Baker said they’ve charged people.
Also, Baker said the tip line at the police department received a lot of phone calls aiding officers.
There are cash rewards for those who help lead police to an arrest. The amount varies depending on the scope of the work done, Riley and Baker said.
Riley and Baker said police do what they can to protect those willing to be informants. Baker added that laws protecting informants from harassment and intimidation also exist.
“We’re not interested in getting anybody hurt,” Riley said.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.