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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 , 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.

started the program at the  by sharing the harsh statistic that Will County has had eight heroin-related deaths since the start of the year.

“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 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.”

Heroin highway

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 who was 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 , 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.”

Parents who want more information can visit www.timetotalk.org or www.drugfreeworld.com. The information from the presentation will posted at a later date on the Naperville Public Library’s website.

Heather Schmidt February 14, 2012 at 05:43 PM
We as parents need to remember that we have a short 18 years with them. Once they leave, that is it. How do you want your child to live? What kind of example are you setting for them? Nothing surprises me about kids. They can get involved in anything. If you think differently than you are living in a different culture than I am. It doesn't matter how much money you make or don't make, it matters how you have treated others. What is more important that possession you want so badly that you would sacrifice your family for or time spent with your kids? There are no do overs in life. 18 years, that is it. That's all you get and you can't get those years back. Spend them wisely.
Chelsea Chambers February 15, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Most parents are too busy maintaining their lifestyle to truly parent. Parenting starts at birth, not at age 15.
Marie Mineo Giardina February 15, 2012 at 02:25 PM
DO NOT SWEEP THIS UNDER THE RUG. This is happening to our bright, educated young adults in every city in every state. THIS IS A WHITE SUBURBAN EPIDEMIC in this decade. In my communilty we have seen a dozen in 2 years. And those are only the ones I know about.
Albert Gazalooch May 10, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Perhaps a bounty on heroin dealers?
Kelly June 07, 2012 at 09:02 PM
My brother passed away December 2010, and he never did heroin. When they found him, he had a hole in his left arm from where it was injected. My brother is also left-handed and is scared to death of needles. Someone told me in detail what they knew happened to my brother, and he basically said someone shot him up saw him foaming at the mouth and just left him there because he was scared. I told the Plainfield police this and they called the kid to confirm what he said, and he denied it. I told them to investigate it further because i know someone walked out on him. They told me they'd look into it. It's been a year and a half and they still haven't done anything about it. There is a law out now that can charge a person with drug-induced homicide. Maybe if these people are arrested it won't happened to another innocent victim again. But the police don't care. They write all these deaths off as "accidents" and ignore it.

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