OSHKOSH - Drug-related crimes are on the rise in Northeast Wisconsin.
Oshkosh police and other departments have seen a defined spikein heroin use and prescription drug abuse in recent months.
A brutal murder in Oshkosh is just one example of the types ofcrime police say drugs can and are bringing to the area.
"We're experiencing a very disturbing level of the abuse ofprescription medicines, the OxyContins those kind of things, thathave had a direct correlation with some of our crimes recently,"Oshkosh Police Chief Scott Greuel said.
Police believe 20-year-old Donald Martin viciously killed22-year-old Emily Wayman of Oshkosh as his fiance raided her roomfor prescription drugs. Officers say the three had traveled toMilwaukee to get OxyContin several times.
"It's illustrative of the severity of addiction and theunmanageability of this disease and how people when they're anaddict will go to any lengths to feed this disease," drug counselorDavid Frederick with Oshkosh's Nova Treatment Center said.
Frederick says addiction to prescription drugs and heroin isbecoming more common with young people between the ages of 18 and30.
The Winnebago area MEG Unit says prescription drugs accountedfor 19 percent of drug charges in 2009. Arrests and referrals forthose drugs doubled between 2005 and 2008, but only recently hasheroin began to surface.
The unit seized four times more heroin in the first three monthsof this year, than all of last year.
While heroin still accounts for a fairly small proportion ofdrug seizures in the area, the MEG unit is afraid today's OxyContinusers will switch to heroin. The drug has decreased in price in thelast 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 nowreaching Northeast Wisconsin.
Frederick is hoping addicts will realize treatment options areavailable, but says the problem is growing.
'It's becoming an epidemic," he said.
One, police in Oshkosh and throughout the area plan to targetaggressively.
The DOJ is training field agents to become heroin experts. Thedepartment says those agents will be ready to assist local lawenforcement in drug investigations.
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