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Police in City of Rome tackle heroin epidemic

By ANNA MEILER

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Heroin abuse has increased to the point where police in the City of Rome are calling it an epidemic.

"They're finding used hypodermic needles on the sidewalks in front of their homes, in their driveways, in the streets, you know, it's dangerous for humans and pets and things as well," said Detective Tim Bates of the Rome Police Department.

The effect is community-wide.

"It's a big concern. I had to talk to my children about it, of course you warn them anyway, but it's out there. It's hard," said Susan Hluska, who lives in the City of Rome.

Police say arrests have skyrocketed over the past two years and 2013 alone, they responded to over 40 overdoses.

"To us, it's an extremely high number and we've had several deaths that we know are related to this as well," said Detective Bates.

And the problem isn't just drug use. Increased heroin abuse is creating a huge ripple effect with drug users turning to shop lifting to support their habit. The shopping plaza on Erie Boulevard is one of the hot spots.

"We do a lot of walk-throughs. A lot of times Friday nights we'll come through 'cause that seems to be their busiest times Friday, Saturday nights," said Officer Jeff Lanigan, Rome Police Department.

So police are taking action with a new program called HOPE: Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education.

The program includes community forums featuring former addicts, warning signs and information on the police website, test kits for parents and partnerships with multiple community organizations that can provide rehabilitation.

"We'll be out there, we'll be in the schools, we'll be out in the community and really letting them know, letting everyone know that hey we're not hiding on this here. We're not denying it happens or going into some denial type of mode. It's here. We all need to deal with this together and we're going to get the message out that way," said Detective Bates.

Resource information will be available on the police website in about two weeks.

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