CHARLESTON, W.Va. –– The Chief of Detectives for the Charleston Police Department calls heroin addiction an “epidemic” in West Virginia.
“Those who are addicted have found they can spend far less money buying heroin than they were for the pills,” said Lieutenant Steve Cooper of the Charleston Police. “They are able to feed their addiction and keep that going spending much less.”
Cooper said his team is doing all it can to try and keep up with the addiction. They’ve partnered with both state and federal prosecutors, other law enforcement agencies, and drug and addiction centers in hopes of turning back the problem.
A heroin death in February in Charleston resulted in a murder charge against Steven Craig Coleman, 27, the man who provided the heroin to the victim. Melody Oxley overdosed Valentine’s night. Cooper said that was the desire of Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller.
“He said he wanted to charge Mr. Coleman if the autopsy revealed heroin was a cause of death,” Cooper said. “Delivering a controlled substances is one of the felonies in the West Virginia code if is leads to the death of an individual falls under the first degree murder statute.”
Sunday, Cooper and Charleston Police were in the affluent South Hills neighborhood of Charleston to investigate yet another overdose death. Cooper said the investigation was slowed by those in the home who were uncooperative. They still aren’t sure if it was heroin which claimed the life of the 20-year old victim. However, he said the drug is quite indiscriminate.
“We see a lot of young people die,” said Cooper. “It touches all socioeconomic areas. It’s not just a housing project. This is a very well-to-do neighborhood where this happened.”
Cooper called his department’s fight against heroin the “kitchen sink” approach. He said they were going after drug dealers and drug users a like. He said they were also using a program through the U.S. Attorney in hopes of getting those hooked on heroin to turn their lives around.
“Our first duty is to preserve life,” Cooper said. “If we get additional tools in our tool belt to keep people alive and give them the opportunity to learn from that near-death experience, maybe more people will go into rehab and leave heroin behind.”