Substance abuse took center stage at the Albany County Courthouse rotunda this morning.
The Albany County Sheriff's Office says it has made its largest heroin bust ever, arresting alleged high-ranking members of a ring that delivered the drug to users in taxis and stationed dealers in local shopping malls. Sheriff Craig Apple says a substantial amount of heroin was seized. "After a four-month investigation with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, also partnering with DEA and Colonie Police, we were able to take down one of the largest heroin distribution rings that this area has seen. We seized roughly a pound of uncut heroin, $32,000 in cash, and when I say a pound of heroin, that's one week’s worth of heroin, that's how much they're pushing into this area."
Apple notes that's 16,000 bags of heroin worth around $150,000, deliveries accomplished via car using taxis furnished by Capital Region Cabs. The sheriff says numerous suspects have already been taken into custody, with more arrests expected that could reach as far north as Glens Falls.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares concedes the drug has become a community problem of monumental proportions. "It is a plague that has increased in its intensity based upon the volume of legitimate prescribed drugs that re no longer available to those people who are seeking them. And so given the rate of prescriptions that are out there, given the dependence that individuals begin to rely on for those drugs once those drugs are shut off from a legitimate source, those people converge into the illicit economy and they begin to purchase those products from the illicit economy."
Soares and the sheriff are toughening their stance on substance abuse of every kind. After Apple detailed the drug bust, Soares took the mic to raise drunk driving awareness. "Ten years ago when we began this journey together, Albany County ranked 61 out 62 counties in DWI convictions. Our numbers have recently come out and we now rank at No. 11. The bad news is that we had to go from 61 to 11. And we're on our way to No. 1 and the only reason we're doing that is we're convicting people at a much higher rate."
This year to date the county has racked up 597 DWI arrests and 80 drug arrests. Officials say they're ahead of the curve, and determined to deter substance abuse at any cost. Soares, citing drunk driving as an example, cautions cost may be a major deterrent. "A first-time offender with a high BAC who is charged today can look at that as a $7,000 to $10,000 mistake. That's the reality. This policy has caused the actual economy of DWI to surge and so it's juts not worth it. The 40 dollars in drinks and the key in the ignition results in close to $10,000 in additional expenses. That is quite the expensive night on the town."
Soares, a member of Governor Cuomo’s disbanded Moreland Act Commission, would not comment on a spate of recent articles alleging executive branch interference in the anti-corruption panel’s state government investigations.