Thread: Need Heroin? Visit Delaware.
08-01-2004, 07:23 AM #1
Need Heroin? Visit Delaware.
I just moved back to Philly but Wilmington is my original home. God do I miss the drugs and violence.
$10-a-bag heroin, just off I-95
By MIKE BILLINGTON
Wilmington's narrow side streets, some of them laid out more than 300 years ago by early Swedish settlers, have become open-air markets for drug dealers selling small plastic bags of nearly pure heroin for $10 each.
There is no lack of buyers, and, because of that, the number of heroin addicts is rising in the city. Drug counselors, doctors, public health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the increase in heroin users is a key reason for a high rate of HIV and AIDS cases in Delaware.
Wilmington's proximity to major heroin "source cities," such as Philadelphia, its location on major interstates, and crackdowns on drug sales by police departments elsewhere have all contributed to the city's rise as a heroin marketplace, federal and local law enforcement sources said.
"We are smack dab in the middle of three major source cities - Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore," vice detective Thomas Looney of the Wilmington Police Department said. "When Philadelphia and New York began coming down hard on heroin dealers a few years ago, our problems really started here."
The result: It's easy to get high in Wilmington.
"The thing is, it's way easier to buy dope in Wilmington than it is to buy beer," former heroin user Shauna Williamson said. "You just drive down the street, stop, and someone comes over to the car and a minute later you're on your way."
Because of I-95, drug couriers have easy access to some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, where most drug sales are made. Using cell phones to coordinate their movements, drug runners can be in and out of Wilmington in 20 or 30 minutes.
Drug couriers also use U.S. 13, U.S. 202, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Delaware Memorial Bridge to enter Wilmington. Some heroin also enters the city through the Port of Wilmington, although law enforcement officials said that flow has slackened due to increased security since Sept. 11, 2001.
Demand is high in Wilmington
No matter the route, running heroin to Wilmington is worth the trip because demand is high, drug counselors said. The number of heroin addicts seeking treatment at Brandywine Counseling in Wilmington, which works with adults who have substance abuse problems, has grown from 648 in 1997 to 1,700 today, said Executive Director Sally Allshouse.
Some of those who have stopped using heroin discovered during their recovery that they are now infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
Wilmington resident Robert Watson, 52, is among them. Now sober, he worries about AIDS.
"I want to serve as a beacon, as an example of what not to do. I used heroin for 34 years and that's longer than many of these kids selling it today will live," he said. "I've lost a lot of friends already. Too many. We have to stop this."
Midlevel dealers have no trouble finding people willing to sell heroin on Wilmington's streets, Looney said. Addicts may get three bags of heroin for every 10 they sell. For others, the lure is the promise of easy money. Some street sellers as young as 12 spend their nights on street corners selling dope in exchange for a few hundred dollars a week.
"They're just babies, but they know how to deal," Williamson said.
Heroin has gotten purer
Heroin's current popularity is due to its purity and low cost, Looney and other police officials said.
The purity allows users to sniff the drug or mix it with tobacco. That has attracted new users who would not have tried heroin in the past because it had to be injected. As they become increasingly addicted, many users start injecting heroin in the belief that it will give them a better high.
The rise in heroin's purity stems from the entry into the market of Colombian drug lords, law enforcement officials said. The Colombians, who once dealt in cocaine almost exclusively, are now the dominant heroin suppliers to the East Coast.
The heroin the Colombians produced was more pure than that produced in Southeast and Southwest Asia, which had long dominated the U.S. heroin market. Competition between Colombian and Asian producers resulted in a consistent supply of heroin that was higher in purity and lower in cost.
Looney and other law enforcement officials, said Wilmington's street-level pushers buy prepackaged heroin from Philadelphia gangs. Dealers who prefer to package it themselves go to New York City to buy it and then bring it to Wilmington, Looney said.
The increased heroin traffic in Wilmington has brought with it a rise in petty theft, burglary, muggings, armed robberies and prostitution. Officials said addicts do whatever they can to scrape together money to buy drugs.
Drug-related crime in parts of the city has made people fearful, neighborhood activists said.
"You have a grandmother who has worked all her life, paid her taxes, is a law-abiding citizen and someone who has raised not only her own children but half the neighborhood's as well and she can't come out of the house to go grocery shopping or even to sit on her front porch. That's unacceptable," said the Rev. Tyrone Johnson of the Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Church in Wilmington.
The answer, he said, rests not so much in cracking down on heroin dealers but in dealing with the addicts.
"We are not going to eliminate the supply of heroin," Johnson said, "so we must reduce the demand for it."
Addicts difficult to reach
Heroin addicts are difficult to reach because they cross all racial, ethnic, gender and economic lines, police and drug counselors said.
Basha Closic, director of the HIV program at Brandywine Counseling, in Wilmington, is an example of that diversity. She was a popular student at Brandywine High School who was getting ready to attend the University of Delaware when she first tried sniffing heroin.
"I liked it," said Closic, 25. "It was like a warm cap on every nerve in your body."
Her grades slipping because of her heroin use, Closic left college in her sophomore year, went to work, tried to get sober but didn't until about four years ago when her parents enrolled her in a residential treatment program.
Williamson tried heroin at 19 while living in Baltimore with an aunt. "You get high the first time and it feels great," Williamson said. "So you keep trying to repeat that again and again but it's never as good as that first time and so you keep doing more and more."
Williamson's aunt discovered her addiction when she caught her niece stealing money from her. The aunt enrolled her in a drug treatment program, and Williamson, 31, has been sober since 2001.
While social workers and drug counselors work to get addicts sober, Wilmington police do what they can to clean up the streets by arresting dozens of street-level dealers a year.
A 19-year-old North Connell Street man was arrested in mid-April, for example, when Cpl. Jason Dolinger and Patrolman Justin Caserta saw him loitering on the corner of Third and Franklin streets in a driving rainstorm. When the officers stopped to question him the teen took off. Police said they found 13 bags of heroin when they caught the teen.
Busting dealers won't shut down the city's heroin trafficking, police and residents agreed.
"For every one we take off the corner," Looney said, "there are three, four and more ready to take their place."
Johnson said part of the answer lies in helping drug dealers find another trade. "What drives drug selling? It's strictly money," Johnson said. "At some point, the city, county and the state have to work together to offer the people who are lured into selling drugs some honest alternatives."
Residents also must be willing to help police crack down on dealers, Johnson said.
Anti-drug agencies also need to step up their outreach activities, Watson said.
"We have to find a way to reach people and convince them that they need to have the courage to admit that they have a problem and get some help," he said.
Some police officers, though, said there is only one sure way to bring a halt to heroin sales on city streets.
"The only way to really stop it, in my opinion," Looney said, "is to go to the source countries and put a noose around it."
Last edited by Lozgod; 08-01-2004 at 07:28 AM.
08-01-2004, 08:33 AM #2Junior Member
- Join Date
- May 2004
i live in delaware and really hadn't heard anything about this until now. good thing i'll move away in a year
08-01-2004, 08:51 AM #3Originally Posted by pspcs83
Last edited by Lozgod; 08-01-2004 at 09:15 AM.
08-01-2004, 10:27 AM #4Junior Member
- Join Date
- May 2004
Well yea. I dont go to those neighborhoods in wilmington, but I didn't know heroin was the drug of choice. i was thinkin more along pot and coke.
Originally Posted by Lozgod
08-01-2004, 10:34 AM #5Originally Posted by pspcs83
08-01-2004, 11:24 AM #6Junior Member
- Join Date
- May 2004
08-01-2004, 12:45 PM #7
Good article.But I really don't see what the problem is, but all the godd@mn dealers in jail, and then put the 3 that replaced him in jail.Simple as that.
08-01-2004, 12:48 PM #8
Hi, we're in Deleware............
08-01-2004, 12:54 PM #9Originally Posted by bor
08-01-2004, 01:09 PM #10
I guess heroin takes the edge off of living in Delaware.
08-01-2004, 01:12 PM #11
Loz, if its not too personal, what did you get pinched for?
08-01-2004, 01:19 PM #12Originally Posted by RATM
Took the 3 mandatory for the trafficking and 18 months on the weapon.
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