MADISON, Wis. - Drug traffic is moving with northbound interstate traffic into Dane County, and heroin dealers don't have the same final destination.
Lt. Jason Freedman with Madison police has been on the Dane County Narcotics Unit for four and a half years.
"Now we have more people traveling say to Chicago, more frequently, bringing back much smaller quantities at a time, and so the supply chain has become far more dispersed," Freedman explained. "That makes it more difficult to get the big fish because even the big fish are carrying little amounts."
Authorities in Marquette County made three arrests in an investigation involving 10 different agencies. Those taken into custody traveled down to Chicago to pick up heroin and told police they used some on the drive back home.
According to the unit's records, the narcotics team seized more than 300 grams of heroin in Dane County in 2013 alone. From 2010 to 2013, those officers seized more than a quarter million dollars in heroin, considering street value for the drug.
Freedman said tracking heroin and its use relies on different data, like overdoses, crimes committed under the drug's influence, and prescription numbers for opiates. He said it's difficult to track heroin and even tougher to predict.
Freedman said with more distributors carrying less heroin, the drug and its dealers are not easily found.
"We think about the same amount of heroin is coming into the Madison and Dane County area," Freedman explained, "but it's coming in smaller, more frequent chunks, which does definitely present a challenge for us."
Freedman said a number of dealers aren't stopping in Madison like they used to. Instead, those people are going straight to the suburbs.
"You have this dispersal pattern that's farther, that's greater, and once you have that, it becomes more and more difficult to identify and target who the significant operators are. We can find the little, smaller players, but it makes it harder to put the pieces together," Freedman said.
Amy Sanchez now leads groups for recovering addicts at Connections Counseling. She stopped using heroin, opiates, and even alcohol months ago, but she remembers how readily available the drugs are around the city.
"It's really easy, there's probably access to opiates within a few mile radius anywhere in Madison," Sanchez said. "When I used, I always knew somebody who knew somebody, or I knew a few people myself. You could go to any of the hotels around here and find people who are using."
Sanchez said the disease of addiction is misunderstood, and support has been the key to her successful sobriety.
"I think it's really hard, or at least for me, it's impossible to do it alone," Sanchez said. "So I think leaning on other people and being a part of a support network of people who believe in you is really important."
Sanchez said beyond all of the statistics, there is help out there for people who are committed to getting clean
"Sometimes it's portrayed to be hopeless, and it's not," Sanchez said. "It's not at all."
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