Could Data Sharing Help Fight Increase in Narcotic Addiction?

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is proposing creation of DrugStat, data-sharing technology to help law enforcement zero in on heroin rings and spot drug-related trends.


Decrying an uptick in narcotic addiction across New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday said police agencies should be equipped with a data-sharing technology to help them zero in on heroin rings and spot trends from overdoses and drug-related hospitalizations.

“Information drives solutions,” Schumer said in proposing “DrugStat,” which he described as an information-sharing database that could be used to track heroin trafficking and other drug-related crimes.

The information could help police spot drug trends quickly, thus enabling them to better frame responses intended to keep illicit drug gangs in check.

“It is critical that we attack the problem from all fronts by improving information sharing, beefing up our law enforcement, prevention, and education efforts, and by getting more support for our treatment facilities,” the senator said.

Under his proposal, the program would be set up by the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.

He said the recent spike in heroin use is apparently driven by the fact that the drug has become a cheaper and more accessible alternative to often-abused pharmaceutical painkillers.

He thus echoed a theory advanced by local police officials in a story published Dec. 17 by The Daily Star. That article spotlighted heroin’s role in creating a new generation of local addicts weeks before the Feb. 2 overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the issue to the national forefront.

By helping police work cooperate in fighting the heroin scourge, the information-sharing program touted by the senator would be welcomed as a new tool in combating narcotics, said Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr.

“We know we certainly have an issue with heroin here,” Devlin said. “And we know the drug dealers move around. They don’t just stay in one county.”

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond agreed. With three investigators in a county that has more square miles than Rhode Island, communication with other law enforcement agencies is vital, he said.

“This is a problem that is about to overrun us,” DuMond said. “This could really help us to get in front of it in a proactive way. The only way we’re going to be able to make any progress is with a collaborative approach.”

Schumer said he is augmenting his DrugStat plan with a new push to convince the federal government to channel more funding into substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

©2014 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)