Police: South Side of Naperville "Ground Zero" for City's Heroin Problem
Hundreds of people attended a Monday night program at the 95th Street Library, which offered statistics, information on heroin and graphic images of drug deaths.
The recent arrest of a 17-year-old Naperville teen charged with dealing heroin, coupled with e-mails sent by both of the city's school districts, led to a massive turnout Monday night for a program about heroin’s grip on Naperville.
“I’m told young people, they don’t know what they are getting into,” Dial said. “… They know the difference between right and wrong and they know it’s illegal. They think they can beat it, but they can’t.”
Detective Mike Umbenhower said police are the last line of defense when dealing with a problem like heroin use. He encourage parents and the community to be actively involved in helping prevent and report use. The Naperville Police Department has 10 officers assigned to deal with drug crimes.
“It feels like we are sticking a finger in a leaking dam,” Umbenhower said, adding that Chicago is the heroin capital of the country. “The south end of Naperville is ground zero for the heroin problem right now.”
Naperville is located near Interstate 88, which leads to the Eisenhower Expressway, also known as the heroin highway. Addicts from Naperville, some of which are teens, go to the city to get the drugs and often begin using while driving back on the highway, Umbenhower said.
Detective Shaun Ferguson said the drug is cheap, easy to get and kids are master manipulators who are able to hide what they are doing.
The drug becomes most important in users' lives, police said. As an example, Ferguson related the story of a West Chicago woman who was charged with prostitution, possession of a controlled substance and child endangerment after she left her child in a car on a hot summer day to solicit what turned out to be an undercover police officer.
At one point during Ferguson’s PowerPoint presentation, a slide showed the web of interconnectedness among heroin users. He said that while users say they use alone, most don’t and in many cases, one person shares the drug with friends, drawing them into addiction.
Parents who may have a child with a drug problem need to build a united front, Umbenhower said, warning that kids know which parent to press and who will cave. He said the addict's drug problem can tear their family apart.
Among the parents who packed in to hear the first presentation Monday night, Julie Michalski said she attended the program because a friend of a friend knew someone affected by drugs. She said parents are concerned and want to get more information.
“We don’t know anything about it,” she said. “We don’t even know what it looks like.”
"Trust, but verify"
In fact, so many parents and community members turned out for the program that officials had to hold two back-to-back sessions to accommodate everyone.
The program was held in a large meeting room, but it was standing room only and the library hit its capacity. To accommodate both groups Monday night, the program was cut short and there was not time in the first session for a question-and-answer period. The hundreds of people in attendance were asked to leave questions and contact information for follow up.
Unlike some of the programs previously held to discuss the heroin problem, this one had a much more graphic element, and those in attendance were warned at the outset that some of the information related would be difficult to view.
During Ferguson’s presentation, he showed slides of what heroin looks like, and also what it looks like to die from heroin. Photos from a few death scenes were included, which provided a view into what the drug does and signs of use.
He told parents to know who their child is hanging out with, check their Facebook pages, check their phones and if they have an IPASS, see where they have gone using it.
He said many parents feel wrong checking up on their kids. The important thing for parents is to make sure they know what their kids are up to before they instill trust in them.
“You are not their friend, you are their parent,” Ferguson said. “… Trust, but verify.”