NEWS10 Special Report: Heroin Hotspots

Why isn't New York tracking the numbers?

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The heroin crisis has reached all corners of the Capital District, but where are all the major hotspots.

In September 2015, cell phone video emerged that appeared to show a woman shooting heroin at a public bus stop in Schenectady.

NEWS10 ABC wanted to find out where the heroin hotspots are in the area, but as reporter Trishna Begam found out, the state does not have a centralized database that tracks the data and makes it accessible to the public and law enforcement agencies.

So NEWS10 went straight to the source to find out the numbers from the people who know them best – the officers on the streets.

woman shooting up

For many departments, it’s a problem that occasionally starts on the street in broad daylight. Heroin isn’t exclusive to one bad neighborhood anymore. It’s an epidemic that has no boundaries.

“This is young money, batman, blue spice, china white,” Washington County Undersheriff John Winchell said as he showed seized bags of heroin.

What’s found on the street ends up on tables at various police departments all across the Capital Region. From Rensselaer County to Washington County and right on the border of Vermont, heroin runs rampant.

Winchell told NEWS10ABC heroin is bought and used in the places people visit every day.

“Right down in the corner here is the Department of Social Services,” he said. “We have made a couple of buys from people there.”

Winchell took NEWS10 ABC along busy Route 4.


“I’m going to swing down the Cumberland Farms down the street here,” he said.

Winchell showed the parking lot where the undercover investigators made a buy.

Police in Gloversville have seen a definite spike in the heroin problem. Investigators had to keep a close eye on a car wash parking lot and a neighborhood on Jay Street.

Last year, the small town community had three overdoses in just one day.

“Hot spots do not exist in this epidemic, unfortunately,” Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said. “If it was that easy, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking today.”

One place where the hot spots are burning through the community is the suburbs of Rensselaer County.

In 2014 the county seized 832 bags of heroin. A year later, the county seized 5,893 bags. That’s more than a 600% increase of heroin found and seized in the county.

Deputy John Panichi showed NEWS10 where the problem starts.

“The major hot bed is definitely city of Troy,” he said. “This is where you’re going to have your big time dealers.”

Panichi said 6th Avenue is where the dealers hang out. He said the heroin trickles outward toward the rest of the county from that spot.

heroin epidemic report 2016

NEWS10 eventually made its way into West Sand Lake.

“It’s all over here,” Panichi said.

Once again, police took NEWS10 into the parking lot of a convenience store. Panichi said someone overdosed in the bathroom and died.

“The majority of the ones that happen in Rensselaer County happened in Averill Park, West Sand Lake and Sand Lake,” he said.

Hollyn McKay, 23, of Albany knows about the locations all too well. She is a former heroin addict.

“I’ve used in this McDonald’s over here, in the parking lot,” she said. “In Price Chopper bathrooms all over the Albany area.”

The first time McKay used heroin she was 19.

“First time I did heroin it was the greatest thing I ever experience in my life,” she explained. “I loved it.”


“We can’t just arrest our way out of the problem,” Van Deusen said. “There needs to be treatment.”

McKay found treatment at The Next Step in Albany. A year into the program and she’s stayed clean, but the memories rush back in the most ordinary places.

“You’ll walk into a store, McDonald’s and go into the bathroom, and it’ll be a memory because that’s some place I’ve shot heroin at,” she said.

Despite the hotspots, tracking the numbers in New York State has proved to be difficult for one of the worst drug epidemics in recent history. There is no statewide database related to heroin crimes or the number of overdose deaths.

At the local level each department tracks the numbers differently.

Here are the numbers NEWS10 ABC has compiled from various local law enforcement agencies:

Albany County

2015: Numbers not provided

2014: 19 were heroin-related deaths.

2013: 16 were heroin-related deaths.

Rensselaer  County

2015: 19 confirmed heroin overdose deaths.

2014: Data not tracked or provided.

Amsterdam Police Department

2015: Responded to 60 heroin related calls, 14 were heroin overdoses with 1 being fatal.

5 were miscellaneous involving a suspicious person complaint involving heroin.

13 were miscellaneous involving other call types involving larcenies, burglaries, shoplifting, family offenses, etc involving heroin.

2014: Responded to 38 heroin related calls, 5 were heroin overdoses.

3 were miscellaneous involving a suspicious person complaint involving heroin.

7 were miscellaneous involving other call types involving larcenies, burglaries, shoplifting, family offenses involving heroin.

Bennington Police Department

2015: Responded to 22 overdoses.

2014: Responded to 18 overdose calls for service.

Pittsfield, Mass

2015: 113 overdose calls.

15 deaths.

34 Narcan saves.

2014: 55 overdose calls.

8 deaths.

Narcan saves not available.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office

2015: 98 heroin related drug arrests

9 NARCAN uses

2014: Numbers not provided

Gloversville Police

2015: 6 overdose deaths.

2014: 2 overdose deaths.


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