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Opioid overdoses to be treated as crime scenes

STAFF REPORTS


BUFFALO -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr., together with Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, Central Police Services (CPS) Commissioner James Janciewicz, and Daniel Rinaldo, from the New York New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), announced today a first-of-its-kind initiative which is being implemented across Erie County to enhance law enforcement’s response to opioid overdoses. The initiative calls for state and local law enforcement officers who respond to an overdose in Erie County to input certain information into their on-board computers and to follow certain protocols for the processing of overdose scenes.

“While we may not be able to prosecute our way out of this epidemic, that does not mean that prosecution has no role in our fight” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “While prevention and treatment efforts are critical to success in driving down overdose death rates, prosecution also plays an important role. Treatment represents the appropriate way to deal with those addicted to these poisons.  Prosecution represents the appropriate way to deal with those drug dealers addicted to the profits generated by their spewing this poison into our community.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the New York-New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), Central Police Services, and the Erie County Chiefs Association, to implement these new protocols help to ensure that those who are selling these potentially deadly opioids receive justice and those who are addicted receive treatment.

Under the initiative, when law enforcement officers arrive at what they believe to be an opioid overdose, certain information will be collected and imputed into a law enforcement database and standardized protocols regarding the processing of the overdose scene and the collection of evidence will be followed. In addition, the information will also be entered into ODMAP, a real time, national GPS mapping system which tracks overdoses, overdose deaths, and Narcan use nationwide.

U.S. Attorney Kennedy further stated, “By standardizing the way these overdose scenes are processed, we enhance our ability to prosecute those who peddle this poison.  At the same time, by simply tracking the location of non-fatal overdoses, we enhance the ability of treatment providers to reach those who are in the greatest need.  It is this simultaneous enhancement of both our law enforcement function—prosecuting drug dealers—and the treatment function—helping addicts—which constitutes a highly effective one, two punch in our effort to combat this deadly epidemic.”

“By establishing consistent protocols for all law enforcement, we will be able to preserve critical evidence in overdose death investigations in order to prosecute these opiate dealers,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “I want to thank U.S. Attorney Kennedy for bringing our partners in law enforcement together on this initiative. By streamlining our efforts, we will be better equipped to identify the drug dealers, and hopefully bring an end to this deadly epidemic.”

“This initiative represents the perfect partnership between law enforcement and public health,” stated Daniel Rinaldo, Drug Intelligence Officer with the New York-New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). “Working together to implement these protocols, gather the evidence, and interview witnesses will enable us to prepare the strongest case possible for prosecution.”

To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 16 defendants for distributing heroin and/or fentanyl which caused the death of or seriously bodily injury to 23 victims. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office has also prosecuted one defendant for manslaughter in connection with an opioid related death.   

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