Heroin use up in Alaska fishing community of Cordova

Jennifer GibbinsThe Cordova Times

Last week the Cordova police department reached what officers describe as a milestone in an ongoing investigation into drug dealing in Cordova. Bang G. Dinh, a long-time Cordova resident, was arrested at his residence for possession and distribution of methamphetamine. The investigation has revealed several suspects in trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin into Cordova.

The investigation, conducted mainly by Cordova police officers Mac Burrell, Zack Johns and Shane Musgrave, resulted from routine patrol duties and was developed to include surveillance, controlled purchases and the cultivation of confidential informants.

The result, according to Burrell, is the largest seizure of drugs in his five years with the Cordova police department, as well as developing information on drug trafficking in the tiny town, population just under 2,300.

“In the current case we seized over 70 grams of methamphetamine,” said Burrell. “To give you an idea of street value, there are 30 grams to an ounce. An end dealer buys an ounce for $1,800, and sells that ounce for $11,200.”

“We have developed enough information to know all of the dealers in Cordova, all of the users, what they are using and how they are getting it,” said officer Burrell. “In the past, we have had information that resulted in mid-management busts. With this investigation, we have enough information to move up the ladder as well as down. We expect to see further arrests and the Office of Children’s Services has been notified.”

While methamphetamine in Cordova has remained constant, Burrell said, heroin use has exploded over the past 12-18 months.

“Speaking to dealers and users, they are saying that Cordova has a large addiction problem for a community of our size and the acceptability of hard drugs like meth and heroin has become mainstream,” Burrell said.  “The use of heroin with needles is being described as just what people do.

“It used to be if you were using and you were at somebody’s house, you would go to the bathroom or outside. Now it is simply common to just pull out your kit and inject right there in front of everyone without even asking anyone.”

Officers Burrell and Johns are also very clear to point out that this is a “Cordova” problem.

“This is not a seasonal or a ‘them’ problem. It’s an ‘us’ problem. The dealers are Cordovans. The users are Cordovans. And it’s year round,” said Burrell. “These are people who know business owners, who are mainstream, born and raised here.”

How far does the problem reach? Meth and heroin users are primarily used by the age 19-35 crowd, according to Johns. But what really concerns the officers is the path of addiction.

National and state wide statistics indicate that the average age of first-time users of meth and heroin is dropping. The officers say the department is aware of kids in sixth grade smoking pot, and high school students who are using and dealing pills in volumes that indicate the situation is far worst than raiding the household medicine cabinet.

“We want parents and adults to talk to the kids, ask them what is going on, what they know,” said Burrell. “Kids need to be educated and the parents need to be involved.”

“These are hard-core drugs and it’s a fact that a user is always chasing that first high and they will spend whatever it takes to get that high. That high school kid in 10th grade who starts using will eventually become a dealer to pay for (his or her) own habit. The community really needs to think about the consequences.”

This article originally appeared in The Cordova Times and is republished here with permission.