Community Crisis: On the front lines of an opioid epidemic

JACKSON, Mich (WLNS) – As part of our continuing coverage on the opioid epidemic, 6 News photographer Connor Wilton and 6 News anchor Sheri Jones got first hand experience how the Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team patrols the city streets to battle the growing heroin crisis.

We followed J-NET with sheriff’s deputy Andrew Sullivan, a 9-year veteran with Jackson County.

And in just three hours he and the team pulled over a half-dozen people and seized drugs and cash.

“If you find someone with crack it’s rare… it’s all heroin now,” said Sullivan. “Marijuana is still there, but it’s mostly heroin or prescription pills.”

And that’s exactly what Jackson County sheriff’s deputy Andrew Sullivan uncovered during one of several traffic stops during our three-hour ride along.

He noticed a man riding a moped drove thru the stop sign after leaving a nearby apartment complex.

“Have you ever been arrested before? NO.. oh yeah.. child support.. do you have anything on you that you shouldn’t have.. no…. no guns drugs anything like that.. mind if I take a quick look?”

The man agrees but Deputy Sullivan’s search turns up something different.

“So it looks like he just bought some crack cocaine.. or heroin from the apartment complex over there.. He bought some he’s not being that truthful yet.”

“This is Hydrocodone, he has a prescription for 120-pills and it’s empty so I would not be surprised if he traded them for the crack cocaine,” explained the deputy.

Hydrocodone is an opioid pain medication that the man says he was prescribed for back pain. If mis-used it can be highly addictive. The 120 pill prescription was filled two days ago. The bottle is now empty.

“You can sell one of these pills on the street for 100 bucks. He could have owed the drug dealer for past debts and gave him all the 120 pills to cover the debt.”

Two J-NET officers arrive on scene to assist and test the drug before bagging and tagging it as evidence. Deputy Sullivan says often times people use a combination of drugs to feed their addiction.

While we finish up at this scene the rest of J-NET is tracking other suspicious activity in the city.

“They’ve got eyes on somebody right now.. outside of a local party story that might be a dealer or someone looking to buy.. most likely dealers if they are over there on foot.
People that are buying know we are looking for that. But the need to buy heroin is so strong, they will risk it and drive down in the middle of the day and buy it,” said the deputy.

That surveillance paid off. J-NET stopped a couple, and after requesting a female sheriff’s deputy to come to the scene to do a full body search, the woman turned over a bag full of crack cocaine.

“There is an inherent risk every time we go out there. But it’s something we put in the back of our heads and just deal with the problem.”

Within the first twenty minutes of the ride along the State Police made a traffic stop just a few miles away from Blackman Township and someone in the car was overdosing on drugs.

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