TAPS program to target property crime and other "quality of life" crimes in 2014

A routine public services meeting turned into a discussion on what one county official says is a statewide epidemic.

On Tuesday afternoon, New Castle County Police Chief Elmer Setting said that the property crimes his agency has decided to focus on in 2014 are driven by the heroin trade, as addicts turn to criminal measures to feed their addiction.

He also said that he’s had a difficult time convincing area news agencies that there even is a problem, and that it’s reaching dangerous proportions.

“Delaware is number four in the nation for property crime, based on per capita,” Setting said. “We are not doing a very good job of it, even though our department is above the national standard for solving burglaries.”

As part of the department’s Targeted Analytical Policing System (TAPS) program, Setting said that four officers were pulled and given special training in addressing property crimes like theft and burglary, in an effort to reduce those figures.

He added that the county has seen a 47 percent decrease in property crimes since the beginning of 2014.

He also said he’s been beating the drum about the heroin problem for a long time.

“I repeat: we have a heroin epidemic,” Setting said. “No one really seems to get that.”

Setting called the heroin trade in Delaware extensive, adding that both the state and county police agencies have seen a noticeable increase in heroin arrests and seizures in recent years.

Setting referred to a map regarding heroin incidents in New Castle County between Jan. 1 and March 5, showing dozens of arrests, nine overdoses and three deaths in that roughly two month time period.

He also said that the huge upswing in heroin is likely driven by a crackdown on “pill mills” that were supplying patients with prescription painkillers; when the mills went away, users turned to heroin, which is often cheaper.

“The stigma of shooting heroin with a needle is gone – the heroin is at 70, 80, 90 percent purity, so all you do is (insufflate),” Setting said.

The key to solving the issue, Setting said, is education efforts like the department’s “Heroin Alert” program that warns schools and communities about the dangers of the addictive substance.

During 2013 county police seized over 767 grams of heroin, a 270 percent increase from 2012.