DOJ's Dave Matthews On Heroin Problem

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DOJ's Dave Matthews On Heroin Problem

Premiere Date: 
January 17, 2014

The DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation administrator discusses heroin's prevalence.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We turn now to a situation report in Wisconsin on heroin with the head of the state Justice Department's Criminal Investigative Unit, Dave Matthews. Thanks very much for being here.

Dave Matthews:

Good morning. Happy to be with you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, first we wanted to ask, what is law enforcement's reaction to the legislative bills designed to help address heroin use and abuse?

Dave Matthews:

I think law enforcement's view generally is that they're very excited, that they were urgently needed. I believe that those bills will save lives. And so of course we're very excited that all parts of government are getting energized for this problem.

Frederica Freyberg:

One thing that it seems like that bill that would grant immunity to people who are on the scene of a heroin overdose, but call 911, is that an issue at all for police agencies?

Dave Matthews:

I don't think so. I think it's going to be an issue for prosecutors. I think that the limited immunity that it offers will help, probably ensure, more calls for emergency services, when needed. The degree of culpability of a person calling will be something that a prosecutor will evaluate. But certainly for those people that are maybe using heroin together with friends, I'm hoping that the intended result of that legislation will be that they will be more inclined to call and that emergency services can arrive sooner.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because, again, that is the intent of that bill.

Dave Matthews:

Absolutely.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what kind of spread has Wisconsin seen in heroin cases in recent years?

Dave Matthews:

It's increasing at an exponential rate right now. I think just between 2012 and 2013 there was more than a 60% increase in submissions to the crime lab of heroin cases, which is one of the things that we look at to determine where our problems lie. So currently, you know, there's a pace of acceleration here that has us very concerned.

Frederica Freyberg:

What's responsible for that pace of acceleration?

Dave Matthews:

That's a lot of things, of course. Steps were taken to limit the availability of prescription opiates, and so as that became more difficult for users/abusers of prescription opiates, heroin is kind of standing in the wings and now is so much cheaper than even the illicit sources of prescription drugs. So it's kind of got a life of its own at this point.

Frederica Freyberg:

And this is not just an urban problem, the way it used to be.

Dave Matthews:

Not at all, that's correct.

Frederica Freyberg:

Where has it spread in Wisconsin?

Dave Matthews:

Everywhere. If you look at the Department of Justice website, you can get links to the maps that show the counties within the state that have made submissions. And you’ll see that it's a smaller and smaller-- it's really a small minority of counties at this point have not made submissions to the crime lab with heroin cases.

Frederica Freyberg:

And I've looked at those maps, and of course there's Dane and Milwaukee counties, but it really is heavily up into kind of the northeast region of the state.

Dave Matthews:

That's right.

Frederica Freyberg:

And then also Douglas County.

Dave Matthews:

Yeah. It-- and you'll see as you look at those maps, it changes from year to year, but that there's an increase throughout the state.

Frederica Freyberg:

Where is this heroin coming from? Where is it being bought and sold in the state?

Dave Matthews:

Well, it's being bought and sold everywhere. Clearly, the source cities are consistent with what have been source cities for illicit drugs in the past, the larger urban centers, Milwaukee, Dane County, of course. But then if you're involved in drug enforcement in those locations, you're tracking the people moving to Chicago and Rockford. And of course Chicago and Rockford are looking at movement to the coast cities, as well as Texas, as a place that a lot of these drugs come into the country.

Frederica Freyberg:

Is this the worst problem facing law enforcement in Wisconsin right now?

Dave Matthews:

I think it's got the broadest implications. It's-- and by the local officials that we talk to and are communicating with, the attorney general, it is the greatest concern, certainly. And a lot of other thefts and burglaries and other types of crimes are being associated with this now.

Frederica Freyberg:

The Department of Justice has spearheaded efforts to stop the abuse with this campaign called The Fly Effect. What is this about?

Dave Matthews:

It's an informational campaign, largely. The aim of that campaign is to get the attention of folks that might be considering or thinking about experimenting with heroin, to convey the message that the consequences that you're looking at down the road are very real, very dangerous, and are probably not what you intended when you first decided to experiment with that drug. It's very dangerous and kills a lot of people every year.

Frederica Freyberg:

Who are the-- what is the demographic of the heroin user? Who is this effort trying to get at?

Dave Matthews:

The demographic tracks a lot of demographics pertaining to risk behaviors and so forth, and clearly you can look at those numbers and say that maybe a young male would be more in danger. But the fact is all sorts of people are dying from using this drug. It's gone across all boundaries, age, economic. You can't point to any group of the society now and say that they're safe from it, because they're not.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Dave Matthews, thanks very much.

Dave Matthews:

Very happy to be here. 


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