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Montgomery

Officials say a startling ‘drug epidemic’ is sweeping across Alabama

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alarming statistics were shared Tuesday during the 2015 Alabama Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Summit, focusing on what Attorney General Luther Strange characterized as a “drug epidemic” currently sweeping the state.

During the meeting of approximately 700 Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) from across the state, Strange revealed that more than 200 people have died from heroin overdose alone over the last year, a significant jump from previous years.

Perhaps even more shockingly, the state’s overdose rate has tripled since 1999, outpacing most of the country.

“The focus this year was the drug epidemic in this state,” said Strange. “Because of a lot of factors, we’re seeing a huge uptick in heroin leading to deaths. Imagine the outcry if there were 200 violent deaths by gunshot. It’s sort of a silent killer, but it’s very important that we get ahead of it.”

But heroin isn’t the only narcotic whose use has increased rapidly in recent years, drugs such as “Spice,” the date-rape drug GHB, and synthetic marijuana have seen a resurgence, as well.

During the summit LEOs were trained on how to recognize and handle these newer drugs, which can often look unlike what they’ve encountered before.

“Alabama is not a producing state,” Strange taught the officers present. “It’s a destination state, so the issue is we have to understand what our federal partners are doing and how that gets distributed and implemented at the local level so MPD can recognize these drugs when they make a traffic stop. Criminals are always innovating and thinking of new ways to hide drugs and make drugs. You can’t get enough training if you’re in law enforcement to stay ahead of what the criminals are doing.”

Officers were also taught how to use technology to stay ahead of the criminal curb during investigations, including digital evidence found on cell phones.

“Educating these guys and taking them from blood and guts to megabytes and megapixels is a process, and that’s why this training is so important,” said Director of the District Attorneys Association and Office of Prosecution Services Randy Hillman said.

During the summit, held at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, the LEOs also took time to memorialize the seven officers who lost their lives in the line of duty over the last year.

Due to the nature of the topics being discussed, most of the workshops were closed to the press, but LEOs attended presentations such as “Forensics Drug Analysis and Evidence,” “GHB—Problems on Campuses,” and  “Cell Phone Evidence and Case Solving.”