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While progress is being made, opioid crisis could get worse

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REDDING, Calif. - The Redding Police Department is on the frontline in the opioid crisis fight in the city, looking to rehabilitation programs as critical long-term solutions.

Redding Police Chief Roger Moore said many of the calls his department receives for service are related to opioid addiction, including increased property crimes, burglaries and overdoses.

"Often, they could be as a result of heroin overdoses," Moore said. "They're very easy to spot, they're very lethargic, their pupils are pinpointed, and they have very shallow respiratory systems."

Moore also said the most frequent type of drug overdoses they see are related to heroin.

"I think the reason is it appears to be much more available right now," Moore said. "I know years back when different regulatory agencies cracked down on prescriptions like hydrocodone, OxyContin and things like that, it really pushed up the market for heroin."

He started noticing an increase in opioid abuse five years ago but has seen an opposite pattern of deaths.

"Opiate deaths are actually going down," Moore said. "I think that's in part because of our lifesaving efforts we have, our technology that we have, our first responders."

Moore said while the department hasn't started using naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates, he said at a public forum in November that the city will soon implement such a program.

He said drug addiction often leads to crime.

"In most cases, it spikes our property crime because they need to get their next fix," Moore said. "They need to grab something from your car, your purse, sell it really quickly to get money to buy heroin."

He said the crime feeds a cycle of drug use because they don't want to get sick from withdrawal.

Moore said his department is doing their part to combat this.

"In addition to enforcement, we're providing education. I met with Donnell Ewart with HHSA (Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency) and he provided us, our department, with a community referral guide," Moore said. "This is the information we give folks out there and it has every place that a person can go for pretty much any addiction."

He said another issue is the law. Due to Proposition 47, illegal drug use is, in general, now a misdemeanor.

Those who are caught using illegal drugs are given citations and rarely taken into custody. Even if they are, Moore said they are in and out of jail within hours.

While Moore anticipates the problem getting worse in the city, he recently cited progress made as new tactics, including problem oriented policing, have led to an increase in drug-related arrests and illegal drug seizures in Redding.

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