CINCINNATI – The heroin epidemic shows no signs of loosening its grip on the region, but if it does, Cincinnati police say there's another drug ready to take its place.
A resurgence of methamphetamine may not be far behind, Assistant Chief Paul Neudigate warned a city council committee Monday.
He also warned that violent crime has gone up as police resources have been stretched thin by the heroin epidemic.
And Neudigate said the county's turn-in-drugs-and-get-immunity program isn't going to have much effect on reducing the heroin supply.
Neudigate updated council's law committee on the heroin fight and said the meth prediction is based on intelligence from the streets.
"We need to be forward thinking right now in regards to not only trying to stabilize our heroin epidemic, but prepare ourselves for a wave of methamphetamine that will probably replace heroin as we move forward," Neudigate said.
The wave may already be here. Two weeks ago, the Hamilton County's Sheriff's Office reported the state's largest crystal meth bust ever.
For now, though, the focus is on heroin, and it's having a troubling impact that goes beyond addicts and their families, he said.
There were 55 more overdoses from heroin, fentanyl and carfantanyl last weekend in Cincinnati to go with 300 in the previous three weeks.
"All those lives are valuable, but it is a huge drain on resources. It is definitely impacting some of our crime numbers. We've seen some increases in our violent crime numbers," Neudigate said.
Another police problem is people getting behind the wheel when they're high. The traffic section is aggressively looking for these drivers, the assistant chief said.
"They have absolutely no clue what that overdose is going to do to them and that vehicle is pretty much now an unguided missile," said Neudigate.
The immunity plan proposed by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil last week is not resonating with Cincinnati police, who say that's the approach they've taken for years.
Neudigate told council members that he has never met an addict who is going to turn in their heroin. It's usually family members who turn it in, and that's what's happening now.
"Family members have showed up in districts – 'Hey, I found this' -- and for the most part unless it's a significant quantity of drugs, we don't go back and try to put charges on that family member. We destroy it," Neudigate said.
"We'll suggest some alternatives and give them some guidance, but this motion really doesn't have any impact on the Cincinnati Police Department … We've acted under those auspices for years."
Council member PG Sittenfeld wants to take some of the workload off police.
He wants $46,000 to train citizens to recognize heroin overdoses and administer Narcan, saying police can use spare hands and eyes.