Senate wants crackdown on drug pushers in playgrounds
Bill would increase penalties for sales to kids in parks
With New York state in the grip of a heroin and opioid drug epidemic, the state Senate is looking to crack down on drug pushers who target adolescents in parks and playgrounds.
The Republican-controlled Senate recently passed two bills aimed at punishing pushers with more jail time if they sell drugs to children under the age of 14.
One bill, sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), would increase the criminal penalties a suspect would face for selling controlled substances in parks grounds. Under current state law, higher penalties exist against drug suspects, but only if they peddle their illegal goods near schools and day care centers, not parks or playgrounds.
Golden said it’s important to expand the law enforcement net.
“Parks and playgrounds should be about swings, slides and fields, not drugs,” he said in a statement. “This legislation will better protect our children from drug dealers, especially in places where they are supposed to be safe. We must advance these laws, in the wake of the prescription drug and heroin crisis throughout our city and state, to keep drugs away from our children.”
Another anti-drug bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jack Martins (R-C-Mineola) would create a crime category of criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child in the first degree. An adult caught selling a controlled substance to a minor under the age of 14 would be charged with a felony.
“Adults who sell dangerous, illegal drugs to young children are predators, plain and simple. They’re targeting them and selling them poison, trying to get them addicted in order to make money,” Martins stated. “Right now, every community in New York state is battling a heroin and opioid epidemic; here in Nassau County, heroin related deaths reached record levels last year.”
Martins said that by giving law enforcement stronger tools to fight drug pushers “is a necessary step to combat this epidemic.”
There has been a recent increase in drug use — especially opiate-based substances — by young adults and teenagers, and with it, an increase in overdoses, according to Golden and Martins, who said that many young people start experimenting in their teenage years with addictive prescription drugs provided by drug dealers.
The bills have been submitted to the Democratic-controlled Assembly for consideration. The bills would have to be passed in that chamber and then signed by the governor in order to become law.
Golden recently organized a public hearing of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction in Dyker Heights to gather information on the extent of the state’s drug dilemma. The task force is expected to issue a report containing recommendations on how to combat the problem.
“Heroin is the biggest issue in this community,” Golden said in his opening statement at the hearing.
Drug addiction is hitting communities all over the state and is cutting across all socio-economic groups, according to the experts. It has even found a foothold in solid, middle class neighborhoods like Dyker Heights, where homes sell for as much as $1 million. “Heroin does not discriminate. Anyone can fall into its deadly grip,” Golden said.
Making matters worse is the fact that heroin is easy to become addicted to, Golden said. “Two or three hits and that kid is addicted,” he warned.
Many heroin addicts start off by taking prescription pain killers and turn to heroin when they can no longer get their hands on pain killers, according to Bridget G. Brennan, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor, who testified at the hearing.
“For the new addict, the gateway is pills,” Brennan testified. “Heroin is cheaper and it’s built to get high.”
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