Heroin was a scarce find on the city streets when Greg Veitch was part of the Saratoga Police Department’s drug investigations unit from 2001 to 2006.
Even more seldom was for officers to respond to an overdose from narcotic, recalled Veitch. Or to get a call for someone who died from the drug.
But that started to change around 2008.Veitch, who is now police chief, headed the unit for three years and witnessed first-hand the encroachment of heroin in the Spa City.
“That’s when we first started finding needles on people we were arresting,” he said, “when we first started seeing small amounts and started making our first buys on the street.”
Heroin is now a top focus of the drug unit, said Veitch. And the drug’s impact on the community is apparent by the rising death toll it’s causing.
Veitch estimates his officers responded to 20 overdoses and between four and six narcotic-related deaths in 2014. Though an exact number remains pending due to several open cases, Veitch said heroin overdose deaths continue to climb.
Of course, heroin use throughout the Capital Region and New York remains high. While Veitch doesn’t consider the drug’s spread through the city an epidemic, he said its startling prominence on the street has given cause for concern.
“It’s certainly a significant increase we’ve seen over the past couple years,” he said. “It has our attention.”
That’s not to say other drugs aren’t still a problem in the city. For instance, cocaine and marijuana trafficking is being largely blamed for a sudden spike in strong-arm robberies that occurred in 2014.
Saratoga Springs saw robberies increase from four reported in 2013 to 16 investigated last year, according to an annual report released by the city’s Department of Public Safety this week. Though a sizable increase, Veitch said the figures recorded last year are somewhat less alarming considering that about half of those robberies were from homes with drug activity or suspected drug dealers.
“They weren’t accosting visitors or residents,” Veitch said. “They were accosting drug dealers.”
In November, Jonathon Parker, 22, and Breanna Moore, 16, were both charged with second-degree robbery after they allegedly broke into a South Franklin Street residence and robbed an individual living there of cash. The pair brandished a BB gun that strongly resembling a semiautomatic pistol and targeted the home because of the drug activity there, police said.
At the time, police believed Parker and Moore could be involved in other robberies around the city. Both are lodged at Saratoga County Jail, where Parker is being held without bail and Moore remains behind bars in lieu of $20,000 cash.
Crime, however, has remained low in the city, Veitch contends. Last year, the city saw only eight auto thefts, 95 burglaries and 447 larcenies — all on par with levels recorded the previous year.
Veitch said crime in general has dropped precipitously since the 1990s, when the city was averaging more than 200 burglaries and nearly 1,000 larcenies per year. The city was also averaging four times as many automobile thefts, according to department statistics.
“We have a pretty stable crime rate in Saratoga Springs,” he said.
“We do see some fluctuations, but again we are in a much better position than we were 20 years ago.”