By Jano Tantongco
The Long Island Heroin Task Force needs improvement, according to retired New York Police Department captain and Dix Hills resident Dale Riedel.
Riedel, whose son Mark died from a heroin overdose in 2013, said “more resources should definitely be devoted to” the task force, which was assembled in February, and encompasses four detectives and a supervisor from both Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as a federally-funded intel analyst.
“I don’t want to be critical of people making steps forward, but they have to understand the urgency of this,” Riedel, 66, said in an interview Friday. “If this isn’t the number one problem, I don’t know what is.”
Riedel made his comments after Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini announced last week that the department has implemented a narcotics hotline, which people can call at 631-852-6272 to report drug activity in their neighborhoods.
SCPD’s Public Information Office will take calls 24/7 and forward complaints to Suffolk’s Criminal Intelligence section, which will then determine if the case should go to the respective precinct or to the narcotics section of police headquarters. Callers, who can choose to remain anonymous, will be eligible for up to $5,000 in a cash reward for each arrest resulting from a tip.
Sini said the hotline is part of Suffolk’s broader, “enhanced narcotics strategy” to combat the opioid epidemic, as outlined last December.
Riedel, who worked for the NYPD from 1973-1999, said the hotline is a step forward, but he views the opioid epidemic as a “societal problem,” one that “you can’t arrest your way out of.”
Instead of overt focus on law enforcement, he said, a treatment and prevention approach should be employed. Riedel said his son was in and out of 30-day treatment programs, which weren’t effective. Instead, he said the true solution is a long-term care approach, which could take years for addicted individuals.
“Opioids are so incredibly addictive, you need long-term care,” Riedel said. “I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I, and my family, have gone through in the last few years.”
In an interview Monday, Sini responded to Riedel’s comments, agreeing that “we can’t arrest our way out of the epidemic.”
Sini emphasized a comprehensive approach to the problem, one that couples prevention and treatment alongside law enforcement.
In regards to the Long Island Heroin Task Force, Sini said that, even with limited resources, it has grown since its inception.
Sini said that, under the new overall drug strategy, narcotics-related search warrants have increased in comparison to previous years.
Since the initiative began Dec. 1, 2015, 42 search warrants have been executed, leading to drug seizures, Sini said. From Jan. 1, 2015-March 30, 2015, a total of 26 such warrants were executed. For the same time frame in 2014, a total of 18 were executed.
Additionally, since December, approximately $370,000 worth of drugs were seized, including 906.6 grams of heroin, 1,056 grams of crack cocaine, 2,332 grams of cocaine, 1,382 grams of marijuana and 120 grams of oxycodone.
Sini also said that there have been 59 calls to Suffolk’s narcotics hotline since it went live on Friday. Some tips have be “able to be used in active investigations that led to warrants,” added Sini.
“For Suffolk County Police, one of its major priorities is to address the opioid epidemic,” he said. “The message we want to send is very simple. If you deal drugs, we are coming for you.”