By Reporter Rebecca Granet

TOMS RIVERS, N.J. — Less than two minutes after walking into the Toms River Police Department to talk to Chief Mitchell Little about the township’s heroin problem, a 9-1-1 call came in.

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The woman on the phone frantically told the 9-1-1 operator that her 31-year-old brother was found in her home, lying on the bathroom floor. Her roommate said he was cold and didn’t appear to be breathing:

9-1-1 Operator: “Does he have a drug problem at all, that you’re aware of?”

Caller: “Yes, he does have a drug problem but he’s been sober.”

9-1-1 Operator: “How long has he been sober?”

Caller: “A couple months.”

9-1-1 Operator: “A couple months, OK.”

Caller: “Yeah.”

9-1-1 Operator: “What was his drug of choice?”

Caller: *inaudible* “He was using heroin.”

EMTs and members of the Toms River police responded. The hope is that they can arrive in time to administer Narcan, the antidote to a heroin overdose. rode along with Chief Little to the scene. We enter the gated community within minutes.

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“There are no demographics at all, it [heroin] doesn’t discriminate,” Little said. “It’s everywhere.”

Toms River’s proximity to places like New York and Atlantic City makes drugs easily accessible.

“Different dealers can live in Toms River,” Little said. “They can literally make a two hour turn around. Go to the city, get the heroin for maybe two or three dollars a bag, because it’s so cheap, and then come down here and sell it for $5 or $7 a bag. [They can] make a 100 percent profit in a two or three hour turnaround, so it’s very profitable, and it’s very easy.”

Last year, Little said the township had 20 heroin overdose deaths. Officers saved another 56 addicts with Narcan.

“We’ve had people that we have literally ‘Narcanned’ nine times and we are going to keep doing it,” he said.

It was too late to use Narcan on this call. The young man’s death, like so many others, followed a short period of sobriety and then a relapse. Doctors say the body frequently will not survive a heroin injection at pre-rehab levels. Little has been on too many of these calls in every part of the community he serves and protects.

“There was one weekend we actually ran out,” he said. “We had so many overdoses we actually ran out of kits which was crazy. We are averaging more than one a week.”

In response to the epidemic, two years ago the chief supplemented the department’s narcotics division with an additional officer.  Through 2015, his drug unit alone seized more than 26,000 bags of heroin.

He also said most of the town’s crime can be traced back to drug use.

“If we feel like we can handle the drug problem, we might be able to start reducing some of the other property crimes that we’ve been seeing,” Little said. “Not to mention trying to save some more lives.”

Until then, the Chief is left consoling another family whose hearts have been broken by heroin.

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