Local drug officials not fazed by heroin reports

Agents say stronger strain not appearing yet in Chicago

June 1, 2010

From http://www.post-trib.com/news/porter/2337920,new-pcheroin0601.article

Reports of black tar and stronger strains of heroin increasing through the country aren't cause for alarm here yet.

That's partly because Midwest drug enforcement officials don't see the influx of those drugs into Chicago, which supplies Northwest Indiana.

It's also that Porter County is already ahead of the trend in heroin use.

"We've had our problems all along, and it seems like the rest of the country is catching up to us," said Robert Taylor, head of the Porter County Drug Task Force.

Taylor referred to a nationally syndicated article that concentrated on drug use changes around St. Louis and mentioned deaths in Joliet, Ill., from heroin of stronger purity.

This area won't see spikes like St. Louis because that city has been fighting methamphetamine, but heroin at $10-$20 a bag is cheap and plentiful and replacing meth and killing more people.

Porter County has had heroin problems but "now we're starting to see the meth," Taylor said.

DEA Resident Agent of Merrillville, Mark Giuffre first heard of the 80-90 percent purity heroin and black tar resurgence in the newspapers.

He and his Midwest colleagues were surprised.

"Generally, we see the trends coming," Giuffre said. "And we don't think we're going to see it."

He speculated that someone brought black tar into Joliet for friends, and some media are portraying it as a trend.

There haven't been large user amounts of black tar, which is like sticky axle grease, in Northwest Indiana for years, he said.

He's also skeptical of higher purity levels.

"I've never heard of black tar above 40 or 50 percent," he said.

According to the DEA Domestic Monitoring Program, purity in the Chicago area has remained at 15-20 percent over the past few years, and South American white heroin remains the primary type used in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said he's hoping that reports of heroin deaths will dissuade users, though.

"There's very little quality control in (illegal) drugs," he said.

The theory behind the more pure varieties is that initial users start by snorting the drug, which is less efficient than injecting.