Charlotte has a major heroin problem. The city is ranked fifth in the country when it comes to the sale and distribution of black tar heroin, much of which occurs in Charlotte’s more affluent communities. This problem has been described as Charlotte’s “invisible drug epidemic” and there are some disconcerting numbers to prove it.
In 2013, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department – South Division, released reports showing that in 2013 south Charlotte heroin related overdoses and arrests increased by over 30 percent. What is also alarming is the average age of heroin users is decreasing as well. In a survey of heroin users, 33.3 percent first used heroin when they were 16-18 years old. Of those users surveyed, 53.2 percent said they could usually obtain heroin within 30 minutes. This easy accessibility can be attributed to the largely untouched market in the south charlotte area, which has generally had low gang activity making it a target for drug dealers to expand their market and find new customers.
Heroin is an opiate that shares properties with commonly abused prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. These painkillers are being abused more and more over the last decade, causing addictions that required constant use just to feel “normal”. As more state governments began regulating these drugs the illegal market’s supply dwindled causing a substantial increase in prices. As prices rose, those abusing these painkillers have begun to turn to heroin as a much cheaper alternative at around nine dollars per bag versus 60-100 dollars per pill. It has also become a common practice for heroin dealers to offer deals for buying in bulk.
The sale of heroin in Charlotte has become increasingly easy. Phone numbers float around where a user can call and make an order, the dispatcher instructs the customer where to go (usually a safe place like a mall parking lot or a public park) and a runner meets the customer with the heroin; the exchange can take place without ever leaving the car.
Additionally, the heroin being dealt in Charlotte is becoming more refined as well, allowing first time users to smoke it instead of shooting it with a needle, making the first experience with heroin seem less intimidating. Of those who start using heroin by snorting or smoking the drug, many turn to shooting it in a matter of weeks.
Since 2007, the number of heroin overdoses in south Charlotte has steadily risen, from 17 in 2007 (four of which resulted in death), to 55 in 2012 (eighteen of which resulted in death). In 2013, there have been 66 heroin overdoses in south Charlotte, with 7 more cases still pending review.
Heroin related arrests have also risen since 2007, from 98 (17 of which resulted in at least one trafficking related charge), to 235 in 2013 (102 of which included at least one trafficking related charge).
In North Carolina, the legal ramifications for possessing heroin can be very severe. State statutes provide that anyone who sells, delivers, transports, or possesses four grams or more of heroin shall be guilty of trafficking heroin, which is a class F felony that carries a sentence with a minimum of 70 months in the State’s prison and a fine not less than $50,000. In comparison, possession of 28 grams of cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 35 months and a fine not less than $50,000.
If you need assistance with a criminal matter, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
About the Author
Brad Smith is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense.
Mr. Smith was born and raised in Charlotte. He began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney before entering private practice in 2006.
In his free time, Mr. Smith enjoys traveling, boating, golf, hiking and spending time with his wife and three children.
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