Drug roundup: Franklin, Northfield and Belmont

  • Items found at the home of 26-year-old Ashley Sargent, who was arrested on drug charges earlier this month by Northfield police. Courtesy



Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
When it comes to keeping track of drug activity over time, everything begins to run together said Franklin police Chief David Goldstein.

“It’s almost as if time doesn’t exist,” he said by phone Thursday. “Time just keeps going.”

Goldstein, who has been in law enforcement for decades, said drugs, like everything else, crop up in cycles.

“I think we have to keep things in perspective,” he said. “I will say this – heroin has always been there.”

Given that, however, Goldstein said there have been noticeable shifts in Franklin of late. The department, like many others, is seeing more felony drug charges, overdose deaths, burglaries and domestic violence related to drugs, and parents bringing their children to the station, begging for help.

“It’s daily – every shift, everyday something comes up,” said Goldstein.

For the 21 officers working in Franklin, he added, they spend about 20 percent of their time on drug-related law enforcement.

From methamphetamine labs made out of 2-liter soda bottles carried around in cars or backpacks to distributing Narcan, the opiate overdose reversal drug to deal with deadly fentanyl-laced heroin, fire and EMS departments remain on their toes.

“Our EMS people are out administering Narcan sometimes as much as three times for the same person,” Goldstein said. While not a solution to the problem, he added, “It gives the individuals the chance to hang on to life.”

One bright note was made Friday by the Mayor’s Drug Task Force during a presentation of the latest Youth Behavior Risk Survey for 2015. While more high school youth reported using alcohol in the past 30 days – up from 32.9 percent in 2013 to 41.7 percent in 2015 – fewer are reporting prescription drug misuse and tobacco use in the past 30 days.

Prescription misuse, for instance, decreased from 9.8 percent of respondents in 2013 to 7.1 percent in 2015.

The 2015 YBRS also shows a consistent correlation between prevention messaging and participating in community activities with a decrease in substance abuse.

“We’re starting to get a little feel for what the next steps might be,” said Goldstein, who also noted one of his detectives just began a second two-year stint on the New Hampshire Attorney General’s drug task force. “We do have a problem. I think what you’re seeing more of now is a lot more attention being paid to this.”

Northfield

Just down the street in Northfield, police Sgt. Jim McIntire said drug activity has certainly increased during the past year.

“There’s quite a bit of activity for a small town,” he said., adding that police are actively trying to break up drug rings.

“We’ve executed at least four or five for residences for drug activity,” he said. The most recent resulted in the March 14 arrest of 26-year-old Ashley Sargent, who is accused of possessing 55 grams of suspected heroin, 23 grams of suspected crack cocaine, other prescription medications, including Suboxone strips, packaged hypodermic needles, $700 in cash and a loaded rifle in her Hodgdon Road home.

In addition to about $9,000 worth of drugs in street value, Sargent is accused of stealing a Polaris ATV from Groton and electronics from area retailers.

Sargent was arrested on charges of receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled drug, and possession of a controlled drug with the intent to distribute, all class A felonies. She was held on $1,000 cash and $10,000 personal recognizance bail.

Arrests for possession with intent to sell, tracing stolen items from Tilton-area shopping centers to houses with drugs and drug-related property thefts are becoming common, McIntire said.

“They call it shopping,” he said. Wood spliters, lawn mowers or any other equipment out at unoccupied homes are what generally get taken.

McIntire said his department is also beginning to see more crack cocaine and fenanyl-laced heroin sold on the street.

“We’ve had five or six overdose cases as well,” McIntire said.

He said that Northfield tends to see a lot of drug activity from its transient residents moving in and out of apartments there.

“We get a lot of traffic through town,” McIntire said. He said many of the people they arrest have been evicted from other nearby towns.

“The same people we deal with are the same as other towns,” McIntire said. “Because the population moves around so much, no one can escape it.”

And this problem is taking up more and more of Northfield Police Department’s time.

“Basic police work is barking dogs and neighbor disputes,” said McIntire. “We’re not drug enforcement agents – that’s what we’re having to deal with now.”

Belmont

Belmont police have been calling attention to needles used for intravenous drugs, which have been found lying in plain sight as of late.

“We’ve had eight documented calls where we’ve had people reporting finding needles,” said Sgt. Steve Akerstrom. The needles have been discovered on the side of the road, at the town beach and in the bathrooms at the Dunkin’ Donuts.

Police warn people not to touch them, but to report the finding, so law enforcement can dispose of them safely. Medical facilities and fire departments have sharps containers for safe disposal.

Akerstrom said in Belmont, most drug activity is limited to possession of pills, marijuana, meth and heroin, and there haven’t been any local overdose deaths this year.

“Thankfully,” he said.

One police officer, Detective Eliza Gustafson, has been dedicated as a liaison for people seeking treatment.

“The people that I’ve talked to say that they can’t afford the treatment they need,” Akerstrom said. “They’ll come out and tell us they have a problem and need help.”



(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)




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