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Photo: <a href="">Hendrike</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Hendrike, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

"First ever" statewide heroin database in the works

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Another development in the epidemic of North Country heroin abuse: On Wednesday, police caught a man with 60 grams of heroin, driving near Gouverneur. As the Watertown Daily Times reports, Elvis Pigott of Massena allegedly had about $20,000-worth of the drug.

Police arrested Pigott in the town of Fowler. According to the Times, the bust was part of an undercover operation into heroin trafficking by the St. Lawrence County Drug Task Force.

Pigott's charged with third-degree criminal possession with intent to sell, among other charges. The arrest involved multiple, local police departments, working together with the help of federal agents.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

Officials say collaboration is key in the fight against the heroin epidemic. As we reported earlier this month, Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne hopes to encourage more inter-agency collaboration. He’s launching an intelligence center that would share heroin and other crime data among five North Country counties.  

Meanwhile, Senator Charles Schumer hopes to give all New York counties access to that kind of information. Schumer has been developing what he says would be the nation’s first ever, statewide, heroin tracking database.

It’s called “DrugStat.” Senator Schumer says the database would gather useful information on heroin – like drug usage rates, overdoses, and drug-related crime – and make that information available to police everywhere in New York State. That way, Schumer says, officials in every county will be in synch.

“It’s clear to everyone in law enforcement that there is insufficient evidence and data about heroin crimes, overdoses and hospitalizations. Data and information sharing drives solutions and we’re seriously lacking in that department,” Schumer said in a press conference call earlier this year.

In January, he asked the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy to help New York set up the DrugStat database. Last week, Schumer heard back. The federal agency agreed to meet with local police and government officials within the next month or two. They’ll talk about what it will take to get the database up and running.

Through a spokesperson, Schumer says it’s too early to tell whether North Country officials will attend, but the idea is to bring in police and government from all around the state.

Ultimately, Schumer says he hopes the information on DrugStat will help police identify distribution patterns, and crack down on heroin rings that operate across county lines. But it’s not only about law enforcement. On the treatment side, Schumer says public health officials will also do a better job once they have access to statewide data.

“We need the data so we can make a concerted effort to demonstrate the number of individuals who are overdosing, where the hotspots in the city or in the county or in the state are, what are the trafficking patterns into the communities, particularly into our rural community,” says Anita Seefried-Brown, director of community prevention at the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County. “This would be fabulous information to have.”

More data isn’t a panacea though, she says. Seefried-Brown also says lawmakers should make it easier for drug addicts to get treatment, especially in rural areas like the North Country. Still, she says she’s excited to see how Schumer’s database comes along.

The first big step – a meeting between Schumer, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and officials from around the state, is set to happen within two months from now.

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