As rates of substance abuse have continued to climb over the years, we’ve found ourselves in the middle of a War on Drugs with law enforcement and legislators on one side, those rendered helpless—and oftentimes dangerous—due to chemical dependency on the other, and a host of friends, family, and loved ones of addicts as well as innocent bystanders caught in the middle.
While dependency used to be distributed among those who abused alcohol, those who used marijuana, and those who preferred harder drugs like narcotic opioids and cocaine, more recently the atmosphere of dependency has become more localized with opiates, and heroin in particular, ravaging even the remotest corners of the nation.
In the face of all this addiction, it seems that the treatment facilities and programs in many cities can’t keep up with the severity of this widespread drug problem. Especially in states with denser populations and especially high rates of drug addiction, there oftentimes aren’t enough beds in rehabilitation centers for all the individuals in need of treatment.
If that wasn’t bad enough, high rates of addiction often have a devastating effect on communities as crime rates rise in proportion to the number of addicts, each of whom is at risk of turning to crime as a means of supporting his or her substance abuse habit. Just as chemical dependency can strip a person of their aspirations and potential, addiction can just as easily turn the quaintest community into a very dangerous place.
Virtually every state in the US—and even a number of countries worldwide—are battling with the ongoing heroin epidemic that emerged in the wake of a number of policy and legislative changes that were meant to curb rates of prescription drug abuse. As those addicted to painkillers found it increasingly difficult to score their coveted drug of choice, most of them turned to heroin, an even stronger, cheaper, and more widely available alternative.
Since heroin is an illicit substance that’s largely smuggled into the US from abroad, it’s often surrounded by gang-related and organized crimes in addition to the elevated crime rates that result of high instances of heroin addiction. There’s a case to be made that the spike in crime that results from heroin addiction is illustrated most readily in the city of Paterson, New Jersey.
Welcome to Silk City, New Jersey
On the northern end of New Jersey in Passaic County, Paterson is reported to have a population of almost 147,000 people, making it the third-most-populous city in New Jersey and giving it the second-highest population density in the country behind New York City due to being less than 9 square miles in size. Also known as Silk City due to its prominent silk production in the late-nineteenth century, recent years have shown Paterson losing much of its local industry and commerce, especially as a number of large shopping malls were constructed in the nearby suburbs.
However, there have been strong gentrification efforts and plans for urban renewal and revitalization in Paterson in order to restore many of the historic structures that had fallen into disrepair and entice businesses into the downtown area. In fact, much of Paterson’s downtown area is classified as an Urban Enterprise Zone, offering various commercial tax incentives to encourage Paterson’s economic growth and development.
The city of Paterson is split into a number of neighborhoods, or wards. Like most other cities the town of Paterson has its good areas and its bad areas. However, some parts of Paterson have become so notorious for crime—especially crime of a violent or drug-related nature—that individuals who don’t live in those areas are discouraged from venturing into them.
In particular, the neighborhoods of Wrigley Park and Northside are considered especially dangerous, but crimes aren’t uncommon in many of Paterson’s other neighborhoods as well. However, the south and eastern parts of Paterson are somewhat stable, consisting mostly of working and business-class neighborhoods while the city’s 1st and 4th wards reportedly consist mostly of abandoned, boarded-shut, dilapidated houses that are often used as makeshift drug dens. In these communities, police are rarely present to respond to the sound of gunshots throughout the day and churches and community and health programs have all closed their doors after having given up on the area.
Addiction and Crime Rates Have Spiked in Paterson, NJ
This characterization may sound exaggerated, but heroin has ravaged Paterson so thoroughly that it’s not uncommon to see homeless addicts injecting themselves with heroin on the street, right out in the open. Due to its close proximity to New York City, Paterson can offer addicts all the high-quality heroin they want at much lower prices than would normally be found elsewhere.
Paterson’s reputation for high-quality, low-cost heroin is so well-known that it’s not uncommon for those suffering from heroin addiction to move to Paterson for the sole purpose of heroin being slightly less costly than where they’d lived previously. The heroin problem in Paterson in so bad that it’s actually seeping into the neighboring towns of Glen Rock, Clifton, Mahwah, and Waldwick, causing the addiction and crime rates of those cities to spike as well.
The result of the heroin epidemic reaching astronomical proportions in Paterson has been a major and noticeable shift in the city, making it much darker, more negative, and much more violent. Law enforcement officers report that there were 23 homicides and 156 non-fatal shootings in Paterson last year, most of which had occurred in the cities 1st and 4th wards in neighborhoods that were nearby to Haledon, Prospect Park, and Hawthorne.
Although most of the victims were Paterson residents, outsiders who travel to the community from nearby cities in Bergen and Passaic Counties have served to solidify Paterson’s reputation as a regional heroin mecca. Officials describe the situation as a state of emergency, estimating that more than 300 individuals travel from around the region into Paterson to procure heroin every single day. And as more and more of the people in Paterson are involved in the local heroin epidemic, crime continues to rise.
Even children have been caught in the crossfire with a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old each being shot and killed, innocent bystanders in an ongoing drug war. Detectives and police officers from cities surrounding Paterson often drive through the town in an effort to help Paterson’s totally overwhelmed law enforcement.
Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Abuse is a Phone Call Away
If you or someone you love is suffering from heroin addiction or dependency to some other substance, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Our team of recovery specialists have helped countless addicts find the right addiction treatment programs for them, allowing them to overcome chemical dependency and live healthy, sober lives. Call us today so we can discuss your treatment options.