Recent busts highlight heroin's reach across Western Pa.
A string of heroin busts across Western Pennsylvania this month highlights the prevalence of a “drug of choice,” law enforcement officials said.
Police in Wilkinsburg, Canonsburg and North Huntingdon this week arrested suspects and confiscated heroin and cash.
Other agencies in the past month made heroin arrests in the North Side, Harmar and Robinson, where Allegheny County sheriff's deputies apprehended two New Jersey men who allegedly had 26,000 bags of heroin valued at $400,000.
“For the past decade, heroin has been the drug of choice in Allegheny County and remains so today,” said Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., who has a countywide narcotics task force. “What is different today is that you have a large number of people who come into the inner city to purchase the drug and then take it back to the suburbs. That never used to happen.”
The reality is that the drug can be found in every community, said Canonsburg police Chief R.T. Bell.
“No matter how big or small, I think we all have the same problem,” Bell said.
On Wednesday, his officers arrested two men accused of shuttling about $40,000 worth of heroin from Pittsburgh each week, using a substantial amount and selling the rest on Washington County streets to support their habits, said Detective Alex Coghill.
“These were midlevel dealers,” Coghill said.
Arrested were Jason Hollman, 42, of North Strabane and Damen Gamble, 22, of Canonsburg. Both remain in the Washington County Prison.
Detectives received a tip about the activities of Hollman and Gamble and had them under surveillance for weeks, Coghill said.
Officers waited at the Canonsburg exit off Interstate 79 for the men after learning they went to Pittsburgh to buy heroin. The occupants of Hollman's car could not say where they had been, and Angela Hollman, his wife, acted anxious, Coghill said.
“Nervousness leads to further questions,” he said.
Angela Hollman told officers that she had heroin in her purse, and Jason Hollman said he had asked her to stash it for him, Coghill said.
Police confiscated $2,000 in cash and seven bricks of heroin, each of which contains 50 bags that sell for $15 each in Canonsburg, Coghill said. The two men told officers that they each used between 20 and 30 bags of heroin daily, he said.
Dealers often are users, Manko said.
“You have to understand that a new heroin addict usually approaches their problem like a Ponzi scheme in that they have to get other people to purchase heroin off of them in order to get enough cash to feed their own habit,” Manko said. “That's also why you have seen this problem explode in places that people would not necessarily associate with drug use.”
On Thursday, Wilkinsburg police arrested four people — Robert Thomas, Cheron Shelton, Aymund Knight and Justin Gomez, whose hometowns were not available — and found $8,000 worth of heroin in raiding a Hill Avenue apartment. Officers seized a cache of weapons, including two military-style weapons, and $8,400 in cash, according to Tribune-Review news partner WPXI.
Wilkinsburg police Chief Ophelia “Cookie” Coleman did not return calls.
State police on Wednesday arrested two Turtle Creek residents — Jeffrey N. Baldwin Jr. and Jermaine D. Cobb Jr., both 19 — in a North Huntingdon hotel and seized 20 bricks of heroin and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 7 percent in Allegheny County allowed to carry concealed gun
- Merged United Way to reveal 5-year plan aimed at Western Pa. children
- Ex-recreation director settles age discrimination lawsuit against Pittsburgh
- Group reports ethnically charged comments in Moroccan taxi driver’s Hazelwood shooting
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- Pittsburgh region’s philanthropic sector at top of nation’s pack
- Lane restrictions announced for portion of Route 28
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield
- Allegheny County park facility reservations going online
- Shooting of Pittsburgh cab driver spotlights risks of profession
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gets $500K estate gift