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State police offer tips to avoid drug-driven crime

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Heroin overdoses increasing paramedic responses

As the heroin epidemic continues to claim lives across Delaware and the nation, Delaware State Police warn that drug-related crimes are on the rise-but they can be deterred with commonsense precautions.

Sgt. Adam Wright said at a recent community meeting held in Lincoln that burglaries are increasing in Sussex County.

"That is a huge thing in Sussex County right now: burglaries. Burglaries, burglaries, burglaries," he said.

Those statistics can be slightly misleading, though, Wright said, because many incidents were thefts from vehicles or sheds, not home invasions.

"It's the path of least resistance-nobody lives in a shed," Wright said. Wright and other troopers said people driven to crime by drugs are not executing well-thought-out plans; they're looking for easy ways to steal from cars or unlocked sheds.

"They do not want resistance," he said. "If a car is locked, they'll move to the next one. I'm not going to say there will be no windows that get busted out. It may happen. But the chances are less because they don't want the alarms going off, the lights going off, the dogs barking, people turning on lights."

Heroin-related arrests across the state have steadily increased from 2010 to 2015, Delaware State Police statistics show. In 2010, there were just over 800 reported arrests; in 2015, there were 2,981. In Sussex County, heroin-related arrests have jumped from 28 in 2010 to 763 in 2015.

Of 243 recently reported vehicle break-ins in Sussex County, every single vehicle was unlocked, police said. And since the beginning of the year, about 10 firearms have been stolen from unsecured vehicles in Sussex County, Wright said.

Increased drug-related crime has driven state police to encourage residents to take precautions. Simple suggestions such as making sure doors are locked, ladders are secured, windows are closed and homes looked lived in are all ways to deter a criminal looking for an easy opportunity, officers said.

A map of overdose responses for Sussex County Emergency Medical Services in 2015 shows that no town in Sussex is completely untouched by the heroin epidemic.

People are overdosing throughout Sussex County, with clusters of high activity in Seaford, Millsboro and Oak Orchard.

"Heroin, it's growing," said Sussex County EMS Director Robert Stuart. "It isn't related to one side of the county versus the other. Yeah, it's heaviest in Seaford, but there are pockets spread all over the county." Stuart said county paramedics have seen a drastic increase in calls, driven partially by a growing population that includes many retirees, but driven in part by rising overdose rates.

Sussex EMS responded to about 22,000 calls last year, a nearly 200 percent increase from an average 12,000 responses in 2010. "The number of patients has gone up about 500 percent in the last 15 years," he said. "Right now, heroin is a significantly growing problem in Sussex County. We have to figure out as a community, as a society, how we can fix this problem."

I don't have the magic answer for that."

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Original Publication Date: June 7, 2016

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