News Briefs

Opiate Task Force Meeting Jan. 14

Massachusetts is currently in the midst of a serious public health emergency because of sky-rocketing opiate abuse.  Winthrop has been hit especially hard.  The most recent data from the Department of Public Health ranks Winthrop as 17th highest in the state for fatal opiate overdoses. Opioids are a class of drugs that include morphine, Percocet, oxycontin and heroin.  This crisis is being fueled primarily by prescription drug abuse which then progresses to heroin abuse when the prescription runs out or becomes too expensive.  ninety percent of heroin abusers report that they began using prescribed opioids before turning to heroin.

Even before this public health crisis was announced by the state legislators, Winthrop has been taking steps to provide for the health and safety of all residents.  Two years ago, Winthrop Fire Department equipped and trained all personnel with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of opioids, thus saving precious time in an overdose situation.  Winthrop Police Department has also been trained and carry Narcan in police cruisers.  Furthermore, Winthrop, Revere, Saugus and Chelsea receive grant money to fund recovery coach positions in these communities in order to facilitate access to treatment.  The addition of recovery coaches, trained people who themselves have accomplished long-term recovery, has been invaluable to Winthrop.  These services are provided free-of-charge and with the promise of confidentiality to any person in Winthrop.

Winthrop CASA (Community Against Substance Abuse) has been and continues to be large part of this effort.  CASA’s mission is to educate partnership members and the Winthrop community about substance abuse and the impact it has on the lives of youth and other residents.
CASA is committed to identifying and providing resources within the community to help families deal with substance abuse as a complex social and health problem.  CASA aims to help improve the quality of life for all Winthrop residents and provide a safer environment for children and youth. a community coalition, CASA invites and thrives on the participation of residents to direct prevention activities within the town.  Monthly meetings are held at the Winthrop Senior Center.  In addition, an Opiate Task Force has been recently formed to more aggressively target opioid prevention.  The next Opiate Task Force meeting is Thursday, January 14th at the CASA Office 18 Bartlett Road.  Please get involved in this community initiative to combat this epidemic.

Winthrop Health Department: 617-846-1740

[email protected]

or

CASA: 617-207-1627

[email protected]

Massachusetts State Police Data from 2015

Massachusetts State Police have investigated 64 homicides across the state in 2015. State troopers, who investigate homicides in the vast majority of Massachusetts communities with the assistance of local police, have solved 47 of those, for a 73 percent clearance rate. The homicides run the full gamut of circumstances, from outdoor shootings at all times of day or night in urban areas to domestic homicides inside residences and those with a variety of other fact patterns.

State Police have jurisdiction over homicides in every city and town in Massachusetts except for Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield (whose local departments handle their own death investigations). The homicide totals per county were as follow:

  • Essex County, 15;
  • Middlesex County, 12;
  • Plymouth County, 11;
  • Bristol County, 9;
  • Suffolk County, 5 (not including Boston);
  • Worcester County, 4 (not including city of Worcester);
  • Cape and Islands, 3;
  • Hampden County, 3 (not including Springfield);
  • Norfolk County, 2.

Also this past year, State Police detectives responded to 755 fatal suspected heroin overdoses. Official cause of death in these cases is determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, but State Police classify them as suspected heroin overdoses because of evidence found at the scene, including drug paraphernalia, or statements of witnesses who were with the deceased immediately prior to death.

Of the 755 suspected fatal heroin overdoses, 591 victims were male, 164, female. The average age of the victims was approximately 36 years. As with the homicide investigations, state troopers respond to all unattended deaths in every community in Massachusetts except Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield, underlying the fact that the problem of heroin addiction knows no geographic boundaries. State Police narcotics units continued to conduct numerous significant drug interdiction operations throughout the past year, ranging from street-level arrests to long-term investigations that dismantled sophisticated drug trafficking organizations.

Of those 755 suspected overdose deaths, the county breakdown is as follows:

  • Middlesex County, 142;
  • Essex County, 130;
  • Bristol County, 108;
  • Plymouth County, 94;
  • Norfolk County, 88;
  • Worcester County, 68 (not including city of Worcester);
  • Cape and Islands, 41;
  • Hampden County, 37 (not including Springfield);
  • Suffolk County, 23 (not including Boston);
  • Hampshire/Franklin Counties, 18;
  • Berkshire County, 6 (not including Pittsfield).

Also in 2015, State Police have made 3,865 arrests of drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Interdiction of impaired operators has always been a core mission of the State Police. The vast majority of OUI arrests were made by road troopers assigned to 39 barracks across the state, and during sobriety checkpoints held on many weekend nights.

The State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section (VFAS) cleared approximately 4,050 criminal warrants in 2015. Among those were more than 2,760 arrests of wanted suspects, registrations of sex offenders, or locates of suspects in other states. Of the arrests, VFAS troopers have apprehended 45 people on murder warrants this year (including seven in December alone). VFAS troopers have also seized 27 guns and made dozens of narcotics seizures as well.

Some other statistics from 2015 are below:

  • The State Police Air Wing has flown 1,306 missions in 2015, including routine patrols, searches for fleeing suspects or missing persons, and overflight support for security at large-scale events and critical incidents;
  • The State Police K-9 Section has deployed on 3,113 missions, including tracks of fleeing suspects or missing persons, evidence searches, and patrol and security activities;
  • The State Police Underwater Recovery Unit has deployed 240 times, including rescue and recovery dives, evidentiary searches, and security sweeps;
  • The State Police Special Tactical Operations Team (STOP Team) deployed for 191 missions, including tactical entries for high risk arrests and search warrants, barricaded armed suspects, and various security operations. The STOP Team also continued its training of local and university police departments throughout Massachusetts in how to respond to active shooter incidents, training 1,489 police personnel from 33 other agencies in 2015.

The missions by the Air Wing, K-9 Section, STOP Team, and Underwater Recovery Unit were in support of State Police incidents and cases and also in support of numerous local police departments.

Additionally, a new class of State Police recruits began intensive physical, academic, and procedural training at the department’s Academy in New Braintree this past fall. The nearly 160 trainees will graduate in April.

“I am extremely proud of the strong work done by the members of the Massachusetts State Police throughout the past year,” stated Col. Richard D. McKeon, superintendent of department. “The men and women of this department worked around the clock, every day and night, to protect the lives, safety and property of everyone who lives, works and travels through our state. I thank them profusely. We embrace our responsibility to do it all over again in 2016.”

The Department of State Police marked its 150th anniversary in 2015. The agency that would grow into the State Police, the State Constabulary, was established in 1865, several weeks after the end of the Civil War. Many of the department’s first officers were Union Army veterans.

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