BELLOWS FALLS - The Bellows Falls Police chief told those at a public event held Thursday night by the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition that heroin use in the village "is at epidemic proportions."
Chief Ron Lake used a segment of the Teen Brain Development event at the Rockingham Free Public Library to address the drug problem in Bellows Falls and provide an update on how his department is dealing with it. Lake spoke about the increasing number of drug-related arrests in the village and the dangers of synthetic marijuana, which GFPC Media Coordinator Chad Simmons described as herbs with chemicals sprayed onto them.
"Heroin use in Bellows Falls is at epidemic proportions," Lake said, adding that the number of arrests keeps climbing. "I left my office at 6:55 and we had 26 complaints year-to-date that we answered that were drug investigation-specific ... and at quarter of 8, we changed that to 27. I'm listening (to the scanner) and they just arrested another individual for a drug crime."
Lake said the BFPD had 3,900 complaints in 2012, and of that, 3,800 were specific to drug investigations.
"The way thing are going right now, our arrests for drugs are going to be up 200 percent from last year," he said.
Thursday was the 101st day of the year and, Lake said, the department had had 85 total arrests as of the time he was speaking.
The chief also spoke about synthetic marijuana in the village.
He said his department received a call from a man in Brattleboro regarding incense and synthetic pot being sold at a store called Mad Hatter Novelty, at 2 Atkinson St. in Bellows Falls. Lake said he and Lt. Shane Harris visited the shop and met the then-manager, who is now the owner. He said the person provided a sample of everything in the store and Lake sent the materials to the state laboratory because he does not have a test kit for substances like synthetic cannabis.
"Everything they provided us was illegal," he told the audience of about 20. Lake said members of the department immediately went down to the Mad Hatter and packaged up all the illegal materials and told the owner that selling them is a criminal offense.
"It wasn't 24 hours after that that we got another call that there was another store in the village of Bellows Falls that was selling that substance," Lake said. "We went to that store, walked in the door and made it clear to the owner why we were there and he said, 'Here is the only thing I've got.' He didn't want to be arrested for it."
A woman in the audience said she has heard to two cases of the devastating effects of synthetic marijuana - one in which someone was hospitalized in Rutland and another in which a person had to be treated at the Brattleboro Retreat.
Earlier in the meeting Dover Police Chief Bob Edwards spoke about the dangers of drug use and underage drinking and how to talk to young people about it.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311,
ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.