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Faces of Heroin: A Ride-Along Takes An Interesting Turn

Deputy Cower began his shift on a Wednesday evening around 7:30. Cower has been patrolling the streets of Broome County for seven years.

In that time -- he's watched the heroin epidemic in our community spiral out of control.

Cower says, "when I started, it was crack-cocaine, then it switched to meth. now, it's heroin."

With heavy heroin use, comes constant overdoses.Cower says those calls have become a burden on law enforcement.

"We have training in Narcan and how to use it, and we're typically the first responders there on overdoses, cause we're already in our cars and already nearby as opposed to an ambulance or fire crew that has to load up. if we're the first ones there, and we're the ones giving that Narcan, they go to the hospital for a while, get checked out and then they get released," he says.

"Police can't arrest anyone at an overdose call, or force them into treatment. all they can do is hand the user these cards with hotline numbers on it.
so while they're saving lives with Narcan -- some cops question how much good they're really doing in the long run. You talk to eight other people that same night, that all do heroin. But you couldn't arrest them, or couldn't get them some kind of help -- then I mean -- what are you really doing?"

Just an hour into Cower's shift, he learns the special investigations unit task force have a bust on their hands.

We head to the Johnson City Police Department -- where Cower negotiates with investigators.

The undercover cops agree to allow our Fox 40 crew in for an exclusive look at the inventory.

They speak candidly to our cameras -- on the condition that we conceal their identities by showing only their hands and feet.

"What you see here is three bundles, so this is one, two, three. So that's thirty bags total."

The investigators run tests on what they believe to be heroin -- which confirm what they already knew.

"It turned orange, and then it goes to that purple color right there. and that's a positive tester."

The amount they seized is just a sliver of what's circulating through our area.

"It used to be more expensive to buy and now it's coming down, which just shows you that there's that much more in the area that people don't have to pay you know, 200 dollars a bundle which you might have seen a couple years ago."

Police are frantically working to take heroin off the streets -- and they already have their hands full with heroin-related crime.

"It's out of control. they steal from their parents, their grandparents, their brothers and sisters, husband and wives, whoever they have to steal from. if they don't have the means to pay for it, they find it."

Many local departments are understaffed as it is. as the impact of heroin intensifies -- resources stretch thinner and thinner.

"More overdoses, and more people out doing heroin, and stealing stuff, doing robberies, you're tying up all the resources. Guys that you wouldn't have say, seven years ago. we were actually out trying to be more proactive."

Cower says he feels law enforcement is trying to fight this beast, with their hands tied. Police are calling for back-up -- some want to see legislation put in place to help them combat this crisis.

"We need some repercussions in some other ways -- so either, you have to let us arrest them, or if we do save their life on an overdose, make them go to certain classes. and tougher penalties for dealers. If you get the dealers off the streets, so people can't get their hands on the stuff, or it's harder to get somehow, they're gonna either resort to something else, or they're gonna end up quitting and becoming a better person for it."

"Certainly for the people who are distributing it. it's poison, you know."

A plea from police, to help them take this poison out of our community.