Suffolk County residents can now report neighborhood drug activity using a new hotline that police officials hope will help combat an opioid epidemic. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $5,000 for a tip leading to an arrest, Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said Thursday.
“If you see something, say something and the Suffolk County Police Department will do something about it,” Sini said.
The hotline 631-852-NARC (6272) will be staffed around the clock by the department’s public information officers, who also handle calls to Crime Stoppers. This year, Suffolk has had 20 confirmed fatal overdoses, including 10 from fentanyl, a powerful opiate, and eight from heroin or a combination of heroin and fentanyl, Sini said. There were 103 fatal heroin overdoses reported in Suffolk last year and a record 109 in 2014.
Sini said there must be an equal emphasis on prevention, treatment and law enforcement to fight the drug “scourge.”
Jeffrey L. Reynolds, head of the Mineola-based Family & Children’s Association, which offers addiction treatment, said the hotline could be helpful to neighborhood residents because “the average dealer is not the kingpin driving the blacked-out SUV, but a kid on a cul-de-sac who is selling to his friends in order to finance a 10 bag a day heroin habit.”
Sini said there are no immediate plans to hire additional staff for the new hotline. Tips will be routed to officers in the criminal intelligence section. Teri Kroll, a Copiague Community Cares Coalition board member, said the tip line is “fantastic.”
Her 23-year-old son Timothy died of an opioid overdose in 2009 after becoming addicted to painkillers prescribed by a doctor. Months before his death, her son had reported his Massapequa doctor Saji Francis to police, Kroll said.
Francis was arrested in December 2009 for selling prescriptions for highly addictive pills such as oxycodone and was later sentenced to six months in prison. “I have that confidence that the police department will follow through. The public doesn’t always have that,” Kroll said. “So the idea that the commissioner is standing up here announcing ‘call me’ to me is huge.”