HEAT works to curb heroin use in McHenry County

To combat McHenry County’s ongoing heroin problem, the sheriff’s department and other agencies are working together to curb the drug’s use in the county.

The Heroin Education/Enforcement Action Task Force, or HEAT, was started in March, and earlier this month the task force met to discuss its progress.

McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said that since the task force’s creation, investigators have collected numerous tips and heroin-related information.

Since last summer, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Police Narcotics Division and Intelligence Led Policing Unit have launched 34 separate heroin investigations, netting 25 arrests and the seizure of more than 75 grams of heroin, Zinke said.

Zinke also said there are “numerous ongoing investigations” that will result in several upcoming heroin-related arrests.

“Heroin has no boundaries,” he said. “It crosses all cultures, classes and dynamics, from the housewife to the high school kid.”

McHenry County’s heroin problem is driven by Chicago’s gang-related drug trade, and it has been an increasing problem the past three years, Zinke said.

There were 52 heroin deaths in McHenry County from 2009 to 2012, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office. So far in 2013, there have been six heroin overdose deaths, Zinke said, which doesn’t include the two Woodstock residents who appeared to have died of a drug overdose Aug. 23.

This year heroin has proved to be the county’s drug of choice, according to data collected by Rosecrance McHenry County, a substance abuse treatment facility in McHenry.

From July 2012 to June 2013, more patients were admitted for heroin use than any other drug, including alcohol. One-hundred forty-two of the 423 adults who came in for substance abuse tested positive for heroin, followed by 121 for alcohol, 66 for marijuana, and 60 for “other hallucinogens.”

Zinke said the county has taken a more data-driven approach to stopping the sale of heroin, including predicting where deals are likely to occur and assigning squad cars to heroin “hot spots.”

“It’s a war,” Zinke said. “We’ve got to stop these guys.”

To provide information about illegal drug activity, people can contact their local police agency or the McHenry County Sheriff at 815-338-2155. Anonymous tips can be provided to Crime Stoppers of McHenry County at 1-800-762-7867.

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