Police Talk To Parents About Rising Heroin Use In Darien

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Officer James Palmieri, Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, Depot Executive Director Jennifer Montanaro, Sgt. T.J. Whyte, Depot Program Director Janice Marzano and Officer Joe Licari at a discussion on the rising use of heroin in Darien.
Officer James Palmieri, Sgt. Jeremiah Marron, Depot Executive Director Jennifer Montanaro, Sgt. T.J. Whyte, Depot Program Director Janice Marzano and Officer Joe Licari at a discussion on the rising use of heroin in Darien. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

DARIEN, Conn. – Heroin is a problem in Darien that is not often publicly addressed, but a group of police officers met with parents at the Depot to show them how to recognize the signs of drug abuse and to seek help.

The workshop held Tuesday night, June 10, was the second that the Darien Police Department has held at the Depot in the past month. Officers discussed how heroin use has been on the rise in Connecticut and throughout the nation, and how heroin addiction often starts with prescription drug abuse.

“The thing that we’re seeing as police officers in our area, Stamford and Norwalk, as prescription drugs have become less available on the street and pricier, heroin has become the cheaper alternative,” said Sgt. T.J. Whyte. He said that heroin use increased 79 percent between 2007 and 2012, and that Connecticut is one of the top ten states in the country for narcotic dependence.

One point that Whyte and the other officers repeated throughout the program was that it is important that parents recognize changes in their children's behavior and be aware of what they’re doing in their free time.

Sgt Jeremiah Marron heads the department’s Detective Division, and said that the department recently started a new unit to deal specifically with narcotics problems. 

“There was never a narcotics problem in the last 50 years in Darien that’s occurring right now,” he said. He added that many of the car burglaries, property crimes, larcenies and bank robberies that Darien has seen all relate to drug abuse.

Parents also heard from a Darien police officer with extensive undercover experience, who asked that his name not be used in this article because of the nature of his work. He has made more than 400 undercover drug purchases in Connecticut in his 14-year career, many in Darien.

“I will arrest one of your kids for doing heroin in the next couple years. I promise you I will,” the officer told the parents. “I can name 40 kids in Darien right now who are heroin addicts.”

The undercover officer said that he has bought crack and heroin in various spots throughout Darien, and that one of the worst heroin dens he’s ever seen was in Darien. He said that parents have to keep an eye on prescription medication, because abuse of painkillers often leads to kids moving on to heroin.

“It is picking up astronomically, we are seeing heroin everywhere, and it’s starting with the pills,” he said.

“One thing that is happening at the high school, kids are taking each other’s pills,” said James Palmieri, the school resource officer. He said that kids are using medication such as Adderall to study for tests. The problem with that, he said, is that they do well on tests as a result of their drug use and receive positive reinforcement from parents because of their improved school performance. They then continue to take the drugs, and sometimes move on to other drugs such as heroin.

The officers encouraged the parents to reach out to police if they suspect their child has a problem with drugs.

“Ask us your questions, tell us what you know,” Marron said. “It’s not because we’re looking to go out and make an arrest, it’s because we want to make a difference. We want to help.”

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