Updated: Wednesday, 14 Apr 2010, 8:34 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 13 Apr 2010, 9:42 PM CDT
OSHKOSH - Drug-related crimes are on the rise in Northeast Wisconsin.
Oshkosh police and other departments have seen a defined spike in heroin use and prescription drug abuse in recent months.
A brutal murder in Oshkosh is just one example of the types of crime police say drugs can and are bringing to the area.
"We're experiencing a very disturbing level of the abuse of prescription medicines, the OxyContins those kind of things, that have had a direct correlation with some of our crimes recently," Oshkosh Police Chief Scott Greuel said.
Police believe 20-year-old Donald Martin viciously killed 22-year-old Emily Wayman of Oshkosh as his fiance raided her room for prescription drugs. Officers say the three had traveled to Milwaukee to get OxyContin several times.
"It's illustrative of the severity of addiction and the unmanageability of this disease and how people when they're an addict will go to any lengths to feed this disease," drug counselor David Frederick with Oshkosh's Nova Treatment Center said.
Frederick says addiction to prescription drugs and heroin is becoming more common with young people between the ages of 18 and 30.
The Winnebago area MEG Unit says prescription drugs accounted for 19 percent of drug charges in 2009. Arrests and referrals for those drugs doubled between 2005 and 2008, but only recently has heroin began to surface.
The unit seized four times more heroin in the first three months of this year, than all of last year.
While heroin still accounts for a fairly small proportion of drug seizures in the area, the MEG unit is afraid today's OxyContin users will switch to heroin. The drug has decreased in price in the last year and has lost its stigma as a dark-alley urban drug.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice says it remains, however, highly addictive and dangerous.
The department says heroin reached Milwaukee in the mid 2000's, spread to the Madison area in the last few years and is now reaching Northeast Wisconsin.
Frederick is hoping addicts will realize treatment options are available, but says the problem is growing.
'It's becoming an epidemic," he said.
One, police in Oshkosh and throughout the area plan to target aggressively.
The DOJ is training field agents to become heroin experts. The department says those agents will be ready to assist local law enforcement in drug investigations.