Modified: January 20, 2017 3:09pm
In response to the growing opiate overdose crisis, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn joins Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein to announce that he has restored a stand-alone Narcotics Bureau that includes an additional Assistant District Attorney to work on drug cases.
“One of my campaign promises was to put more of a focus on narcotics cases with the hope of stemming the tide of heroin-related overdose deaths,” says DA Flynn. “By aggressively going after opiate dealers, we can help disrupt the supply of this poison that is killing people at an alarming rate.”
Statistics provided by the Erie County Department of Health show a tremendous rise in the amount of opiate overdose deaths. In 2014, there were 127. The number jumped to 256 in 2015. In 2016, there were 240 confirmed opiate overdose deaths with 84 suspected pending toxicology results, bringing the likely total to 324.
“Opioid overdoses are the number one cause of unnatural death in Erie County, says Health Commissioner Burstein. “As we in public health work to address the underlying causes of opioid addiction, I applaud District Attorney John Flynn’s leadership in re-establishing a dedicated narcotics bureau. With new and increasingly lethal opioids hitting our streets every few months, the need to aggressively prosecute predatory drug dealers has never been greater.”
“With this move, District Attorney Flynn is taking the fight against opioid and other drug abuse to the streets and putting drug dealers on notice that they will be caught and they will be prosecuted,” says County Executive Poloncarz. “No longer will these parasites be able to act with impunity, leaving a path of death and despair in their wake as they pursue new, vulnerable ‘customers’. The District Attorney has shown his commitment to the safety and well-being of county residents, and I thank him for his vision in restoring and strengthening the Narcotics Bureau.”
DA Flynn says the new Narcotics Bureau is expanding the cases it investigates by taking on those involving lower amounts of drugs. The goals are to get sellers off the streets and provide treatment for addicts.
This year, the DA’s Office will begin recommending that certain drug addicts who are arrested participate in the MISSION-CJ Initiative, a federally funded program that helps them get into rehabilitation.
The Narcotics Bureau includes Chief Paul J. Williams III, a 21 year veteran of the DA’s Office, and Assistant District Attorneys John P. Gerken, Jr. and Lauren Nash.