NYC Had More Overdoses Than Homicides In 2013

By McCarton Ackerman 04/08/15

The numbers have far outpaced even the epidemics of 30 or 40 years ago.

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In New York City, the pin apparently is mightier than the sword. The city’s Department of Health has confirmed that there were more heroin overdose deaths than homicides in 2013.

Although exact numbers weren’t available for 2014, it was confirmed that more heroin overdoses than homicides also took place last year. Approximately 420 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013, compared to 335 homicides.

New York law enforcement officials also seized 2,168 pounds of heroin in 2014, with a street value of roughly $300 million. The Drug Enforcement Agency has already seized 220 pounds of heroin so far in 2015, while the office of the special narcotics prosecutor has already confiscated an additional 120 pounds.

“We’ve never seen these numbers, not even in the heroin epidemics from 30 to 40 years ago,” said James Hunt, special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York Field Division.

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said that many heroin addicts were initially hooked on prescription painkillers, but then switched over to heroin because it’s cheaper and produces a longer-lasting high. The heroin deaths in NYC also spread across a wide range of races and socio-economic backgrounds.

“I would definitely call it an epidemic,” said Hunt. “This is no longer a ghetto drug ... It’s in the suburbs and crosses all economic lines and social lines. This is a problem that’s everywhere.”

The bulk of heroin overdose deaths throughout the city occurred in neighborhoods in Staten Island and the Bronx. The NYPD has since required all officers in Staten Island to carry the heroin overdose antidote known as naloxone. As of May 2014, more than half of NYPD officers also carry the drug on them.

Although the Mexican cartels are responsible for smuggling the drug into NYC, the heroin mills themselves have been operating out of residential homes in northern Manhattan and the Bronx. Once crushed and packaged into glassine envelopes, they are then distributed throughout the five boroughs.

The heroin being trafficked is about 60 to 70% pure, compared to just 10% purity back in the ‘70s. This allows users to get high without shooting the drug into their veins.

“Addicts eventually go there, but they start off snorting it or sprinkling it on alcoholic drinks,” said Brennan. “But when you are in the grips of an addiction, putting a needle in your arm is not a big deal at that point.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.