Heroin on High Desert: Small towns, big problem

'Pay attention -- it's everywhere ... Kids are dying every day'

POSTED: 12:12 AM PST February 28, 2013    UPDATED: 9:30 AM PST February 28, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Business owners, attorneys and athletes; You may think we're talking about a list of who's who in Bend, but we're not. This is a list of people who were sold heroin by a former drug dealer-turned-police informant.

We learned all about the world of heroin in Central Oregon from an undercover police officer and a drug informant. Both tell us the people of Central Oregon are oblivious to what's going on around them.

One of Bend's drug enforcement officers says, "They should open their eyes and pay attention, because it's everywhere."

A Bend police informant and undercover officer both say you'll be shocked to learn where most major drug deals go down. Parks, stores, the mall, nicer neighborhoods are all places these deals occur.

The startling fact is that it happens more during the daylight and business hours.

According to this officer,"Most of the time, it happens in real public areas. Most people wouldn't even see it happen and wouldn't know it’s happening.”

They want to emphasize that not only do drug deals happen where you wouldn't expect them, they say anyone could be caught in the middle of it.

When asked who and where these deals go down, the undercover officer said, "Could be elderly people, could be young people, could be kids, could be you, could be me. Go to the grocery store and whoever you see in the grocery store is in the middle of the drug deal. "

So while your children play or innocently reach for an item off the grocery store shelf, they may be standing next to a dealer or next to a user desperate to get their next high.

If you think you know who uses heroin, you may be wrong. The informant and ex-drug dealer says, “People that work at banks, a lawyer, people that go to church are all examples of users they sold to."

This is a fact that the drug enforcement officer echoed, saying, “You see people from all walks of life who are users."

While you may find comfort in numbers or in public places, the problem is -- so do dealers and users.

Our source emphasized, “You see people using guns and protecting themselves because of what they are carrying and what they are involved in. Stuff that people don't see, but it happens every day.” 

In this beautiful area, you may think there's no way you've ever been near a drug deal, but that's only because you don't know what to look for.

"What you see is -- it looks like a handshake," said Bend police Lt. Chris Carney. "A couple people come up - you might see them look around a little bit. They try to make it look inconspicuous, like it's just two people meeting, but typically there's an exchange of money and the drugs."

Not only do users and dealers want to steal the beauty away from our city, they want to steal your stuff. The good people of the community are the people that lose their property and have things vandalized, car doors broken, houses broken into.

Officials say family member-to-family member crime is on the rise due to an increase in young people using the drug.

“Heroin is a drug that most people get into after starting on pills, became addicted to opiates and their body is physically addicted to the opiate,“ said the drug enforcement officer.    

In its annual drug threat assessment report, Oregon’s High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program states that users of prescription opiates are increasingly switching to heroin because it is more available, less expensive and provides a more intense high.

Not only is heroin robbing the communities sense of safety, it’s also taking lives. The Bend drug enforcement officer agrees, stating, "Heroin is killing people -- it's as simple as that."

Police say, heroin knows no geographic or economic bounds, Eastside or Westside, wealthy or not. Heroin use touches all of our lives -- and all of our pocketbooks. A local law enforcement officer calls heroin use "the biggest law enforcement problem facing the High Desert in the next five years."

The officer also said, “It’s hard -- our area is getting larger, the drug demand, especially with heroin, is getting larger."

Officials fear for the ongoing safety of our community and our children. The officer goes on to say, "Kids are the ones that are getting their hands on the drugs. Kids are dying every day because of heroin."

According to police, they just don't have the resources to fight this problem alone. So far in 2013, local law enforcement has taken more heroin off the street than in all of 2012. They say this is a community problem, and needs voters to help push tougher legislation in order to make an impact on the war against heroin in our community.