Police See Drug Issues as 'Domestic Terrorism'

Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis and others speak out on the topic of drug abuse in the first of a five part series on Wilmington Patch.

Editor’s Note: The following is the first story in a five-part series on various issues related to drug use in Wilmington. Check back throughout the upcoming days for more stories on the topic.

The Wilmington Police Department handles a wide variety of issues on a daily basis. But one of those issues has become too common in recent months, and it's something police are hoping to put a stop to.

“Illicit drug trafficking is a form of domestic terrorism to some extent,” said Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis. “It is preying on folks who are more susceptible and who need a better life. And it’s something that we need to deal with head on.”

There have been a wide variety of incidents in recent months with ties to prescription drugs and heroin use, leading many residents in town to question how much of a drug problem Wilmington has.

While several town officials acknowledged that substance abuse is something the town must attempt to curtail, they also admitted they are not the only town in the state or country seeing an uptick in this area.

“We need to figure this out not just as a town, but as a country,” said Board of Selectmen chairman Michael Newhouse. “I think folks need to be cognizant of it. We have to do anything we can to deter the use of any kind of illegal substances. We need to take care of not only ourselves, but the young people in our society especially.”

Begonis said that while he does not believe there has been a dramatic spike in the number of drug problems his department has dealt with in recent years, there are two aspects that have changed significantly.

The Chief said drug use is more prevalent among teenagers and college-aged residents than he has ever seen. He also said the abuse of prescription drugs nationwide is higher than at any point during his career.

Though there is a long list of reasons why this could be the case, Begonis said he believes the decriminalization of marijuana is one of them. He believes that when that law was passed in Massachusetts, it sent the wrong message about drug use.

In many cases prescription drug abuse is closely tied with heroin use, an issue that has led to multiple overdoses, including fatal ones, in Wilmington over the last several months. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to prescription drugs, so Begonis said when young drug users do not have the financial means to continue abusing prescription medications, they often turn to the cheaper, more potent alternative.

What concerns town officials, including Public Health Director Shelly Newhouse, the most is how young many of the Wilmington residents are who have overdosed or been arrested in recent months.

“Anything that hits our youth the way substance abuse has is disturbing. It’s troubling, and we would like to see what we can do to stop it,” said Newhouse. “With the recent headlines of overdoses and arrests that we’ve seen, it’s something that the Health Department has to take a look at.”

Town Manager Michael Caira, who has worked in town for more than two decades, said he believes there has been an increase in drug use and abuse in the last year.

“We are seeing what appears to be an uptick, but it’s consistent with what’s being seen nationwide,” said Caira. “I think the fact that it’s reaching what people believe to be the safe suburbs at an increased rate is certainly disturbing to me, and to everybody. People need to be educated on the signs so they can be more diligent in terms of trying to dissuade folks from making these terrible decisions.”

Shelly Newhouse is in the initial stages of forming a drug coalition, something that Wilmington Patch will touch on later in the week as a part of this series of stories.

Begonis said his department will continue its attempt to find ways to slow and stop illegal drug use.

“Wilmington does not have a drug problem per se,” said Begonis. “We don’t have open drug dealing in the streets like other cities have a real issue with and are constantly battling. We’re obviously aware of the issues that are happening in Wilmington, and we’re dealing with them as appropriately as possible and in the confines of the law. This is something that every law enforcement department in America is dealing with.”

Editor's Note: The quote in the third paragraph of the article was corrected to indicate that Police Chief Michael Begonis said "Illicit drug trafficking" and not "Illicit drug use" as was originally written.

Dudley Escobar September 17, 2012 at 07:49 PM
"Though there is a long list of reasons why this could be the case, Begonis said he believes the decriminalization of marijuana is one of them. He believes that when that law was passed in Massachusetts, it sent the wrong message about drug use." The Chief must have really been upset when the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed. How many people are arrested, hurt, or die every year in Wilmington due to alcohol, Chief? And assuming that it's many more arrests, injuries and deaths than are related to "drugs," why are you not taking a harder stance against it? Is it possibly because you recognize that adults have the right to choose to consume alcohol free from police persecution, as long as they do so responsibly and are willing to accept the consequences if they betray that trust? Why don't drug users, *especially* harmless marijuana users, deserve that same respect? Drug use, specifically use of hard drugs, may be a problem. But the failed War on Drugs should have shown by now that it's not a problem that can be dealt with through arrests or imprisonment, or especially through labeling non-violent citizens as "domestic terrorists." Using language like that displays a deep-seated ignorance that borders on irresponsibility. Who are people more likely to be afraid of being "terrorized" by? Pot smokers...or SWAT teams?
JoeC September 17, 2012 at 07:56 PM
good point
C Johnson September 17, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I for one am totally with you on the point of Massachusetts revamping the whole rehab process. To have a person who has a full blown drug habit go into rehab for a period not to exceed "five days" and have no provision for an "after" program to guarantee the person continues outside therapy is a JOKE! As soon as these kids get out of "rehab" they're right back buying the drugs. A more concentrated effort in getting the actual dealers of the drugs (hello Lawrence, MA) would be far better than just going after the users.
Guido McGinty September 17, 2012 at 08:42 PM
That's different. Our benevolent soldiers have their own rules.
Guido McGinty September 17, 2012 at 09:05 PM
""Illicit drug use is a form of domestic terrorism to some extent," said Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis." And what extent would that be, Mike? One definition of terrorism is: a terroristic method of governing. Considering that most police forces have come to resemble a paramilitary gang, I have much more to fear from those with a legal monopoly on force and violence versus a peaceful person with a vice.
JoeC September 17, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Wilmington police treat everyone as domestic terrorist, simply drive or walk through the town and you are made to feel as though you are trespassing even when you live here,
Marianne September 17, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Pleas research the numbers and count how many OD's this town has seen and then count the deaths, then tell us there is NO drug problem.....
Richard Steeb September 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM
I see the prohibition of Cannabis to be a crime against humanity, and I aim to see it abolished. That will disemploy a lot of terroristic thugs, both those with and those without BADGES. Hasten the day. -Richard P Steeb, San Jose California
Guido McGinty September 18, 2012 at 01:59 AM
As there is no victim, there is no drug problem.
Kevin MacDonald September 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Selectman Cimaglia at a selectmen's meeting said we don't have a massive drug problem. Chief Begonis is quoted in this article as saying that "Wilmington doesn't have a drug problem per se". How can town officials make comments like this with the amount of overdoses and the amount of syringes found on various streets around town?
Richard Jertz September 18, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Kevin you are absolutely right. Hopefully the town officials will wake up and try to address this serious problem.
Mary Giroux September 18, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Wilmington doesn't have a drug problem? I call BS on that. Tell that to the many parents who are helpless to their son or daughter's addiction. Tell that to the parents that have had to bury their kid. Tell that to the parents that have to lock their own child out of the house and get a restraining order. Tell that to the parents that have to make a call and "section" their son or daughter so they are not a danger to themselves or others. Tell that to the parents that have to stand over a bed at the emergency room and hope the doctors can save them from the latest overdose. You want to really work on this problem? Get out of denial.
Stacie September 18, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Drug problems are in every city and town. Just because Wilmington is a small town and a great community does not mean we don't have a drug problem. More focus is needed with the kids in Middle School. DARE belongs in Middle School just as it does in 5th grade.
Randi DeLoreto September 18, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I agree with you on the denial part Mary...but education starts at home. Parents need to start taking responsibility for their kids actions just as much as the kid does. They need to drop the "not my child" attitude. At least this town is seeing that there is a problem and trying to do something about it....not like other towns close by that want to keep it quiet. Quiet does not make it go away.
Guido McGinty September 19, 2012 at 03:10 AM
DARE belongs on the enormous trash heap of failed authoritarian policies.
MsJennie September 19, 2012 at 11:53 AM
It is up to parents to talk to their children, but I also feel it is very important for the town to educate our children and parents on drug addiction. Shelly Newhouse is in the process of creating a coalition to spear head this problem. It is not always the parents fault and sometimes the kids are unable to stop because once you try it, you are hooked and addicts will do anything to get that next high. DONT TRY DRUGS is the message we want to send to our children,
Kevin_Hunt September 19, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Considering the fact that marijuana has never killed anyone due to overdose or adverse drug reaction in 5,000 years, and the Mexican cartels exist because of the war on drugs (50,000 deaths in 6 years), I think it's safe to say who the terrorist really are. We legalized alcohol and the bootleggers stopped shooting citizens with tommy guns. Is that really so hard for Chief Big-one-over-on-us to understand?
Kevin_Hunt September 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
DARE was a failure because so many kids of the 90's were forced to take ADD speed and experimental mood enhancers by parents and school nurses. How is giving amphetamines to kids "just saying no"? Three million American kids are currently on ADD drugs like Adderall, which is nothing more than watered down meth. 20,000+ deaths per year from prescription drugs, zero deaths from weed, and the DARE officer was telling the kids that "all illegal drugs will kill you". Kids learn to spot hypocrisy at an early age.
Mary Giroux September 19, 2012 at 03:17 PM
The sad fact is, drugs are easier to get than alcohol and cigarettes. You don't need an id. Just cash. You want an education on how bad this problem really is? Spend a day in one of the courts as defendant after defendant stands in front of a judge on charges related directly to their addiction. Or how about visiting the overflowing detox centers and seeing all of the very young people addicted to heroin. These places are so full you have to wait for a bed. Or how about attending a Learn to Cope or Nar-Anon meeting and seeing all the devasted family members that are at their wits end. These are good people, good parents. They did nothing to cause this. Blaming the parents and saying they have to "talk" to their children is judgmental and wrong. We all talked to our children we all set limits. This transcends that. The stuff on the street is 80 to 90 percent pure and it kills. Most addicts are still using so they don't feel sick. They are trapped. Proper education of both the parents and the kids is paramount. Do not sugar coat this. They have to know how dangerous it is. This could happen to anyones kids.
Kevin_Hunt September 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The cops still will have plenty of real crimes to solve when weed is legal. I guarantee that they have not solved all one million violent crimes and nine million property crimes that have occurred in the last year.
Kevin_Hunt September 19, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Jose Guerana, an Iraq war veteran was gunned down by an AZ SWAT team who was trying to reach their quota of drug raids. No drugs were found. The officers denied paramedics access to their victim and allowed Guerena to bleed to death in front of his 4 year old son. http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2011/11/27/swat-team-shooting-marine-jose-guerena-ortiz-provokes-rage/
Kevin_Hunt September 19, 2012 at 03:27 PM
"Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labeling them as people affected by a disease. The resulting effect: a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following 10 years. Portugal's drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report. One more outcome: a lot less sick people. Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates, which experts believe is the result of the government offering treatment with no threat of legal ramifications to addicts." Source: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120718/drug-decriminalization-portugal-addicts
Jeanne September 20, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Brianna...there IS a youth center in Wilmington at St Thomas Church in the hall basement. It for kids in 6th, 7th and 8th graders! We will be opening again real soon! Notices will be in the newspaper with info on opening day!
George Humphrey September 20, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Marianne, How many people have died as a result of alcohol abuse? Prohibition taught us that making drugs illegal has these main effects: #1 No one stops using the drug, instead more people will use it. #2 Criminals become more powerful and wealthy #3 police and government are corrupted by the criminal's wealth #4 Violence increases #5 Government agencies fight to keep drugs illegal so they can keep their budgets I don't like it, but the only rational answer is to legalize all the drugs, require people to register to use them if they want to use them, and allow selling the drugs to only be done by government stores. No Advertising, No depictions of use in the media.
Kevin_Hunt September 20, 2012 at 02:37 PM
George Humphrey: You are right, and when the govt cracked down on the alcohol bootleggers brewing relatively harmless beer, they started selling moonshine that was easier to smuggle. Of course, much of that moonshine was spiked with poisonous methanol. Black market intoxicants always follow the "iron law of prohibition" The iron law of prohibition is a term coined by Richard Cowan which states that "the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes." Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_prohibition
Dudley Escobar September 20, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I'm glad to see there are so many people who acknowledge the harm caused by the War on Drugs. Recognizing these truths is not the equivalent of condoning drug use, and does not preclude teaching our children the dangers involved in using them. But it's wrong to accept the War on Drugs as something beneficial simply because you're opposed to drug use, when there is so much evidence that drug prohibition has been a disastrous policy for this country, has devastated our inner cities, has packed our prisons with nonviolent offenders and has led to increased use of stronger, more dangerous and less pure drugs. End the madness!
Rick237 September 26, 2012 at 10:04 PM
The major drugs in the world — alcohol, cocaine, morphine (heroin), and cannabis — are valuable medicines which have served mankind for thousands of years. Medicinal plants and extracts are also the safest drugs. Preparations of coca, opium, cannabis, and alcohol have been safely produced and consumed for centuries. These much-valued herbal medicines also have religeous, ceremonial, and recreational uses. They belong in every home and medicine kit unless the homeowner chooses otherwise. The reasons why medicinal plants and extracts are illegal are money and power. They are illegal because they can be produced and sold for pennies by peasant farmers and poor people. On a level field, Big Pharma (The Government Drug Cartel)cannot compete with peasant farmers.
Rick237 September 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM
In a free market, the cost of basic drugs would be pennies. If given a choice, people would choose safe, effective, and inexpensive natural drugs over the expensive and often dangerous synthetics that they are currently being forced to buy. If freedom is restored, Big Pharma would would lose several hundred billon dollars in sales every year. Likewise, law enforcement would lose a similar amount because they would no longer be allowed to assault, rob, and arrest millions of peaceful people or kill those who resist. Likewise, they would no longer be authorized to murder peasant farmers or poison their land, livestock, and families. In addition to all these crimes that are currently being committed in the name of the law, the drug war steals a half trillion dollars every year from taxpayers and consumers . It is the largest armed robbery in history. Accidental drug overdoses are the predictable consequence of all the adulterated, improperly labeled, and improperly manufactured drugs produced by the current illegalization war. Legalized, pure drugs packaged in safe doses are 100% safe. It is impossible to accidently overdose on properly labeled drugs that are packaged in safe doses just like it is impossible to accidently jump off a tall bridge.
Rick237 September 26, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Products such as "Meth" and "Crack" are the results of drug Prohibition just like alcohol Prohibition produced "bathtub gin" and "white lightning". Prohibition wars produce more concentrated, potent, and dangerous subtances because they are easier to conceal from the authorities. Concentrated, potent intoxicants take up less space. Everyone who supports drug Prohibition is personally responsible for all the harm that has been associated with these drugs just like they are personally responsible for all the harm associated with adulterated and improperly labeled drugs produced by their violent interference into the free market. They are personally responsible because they use employ armies of guns and widespread violence in order to prevent their fellow humans from buying safe drugs packaged in safe doses. The biggest danger to young people and everyone else is to murdered, assaulted, robbed, and/or arrested by the armies of government and private thugs who have been produced by the current Prohibition war which is, in fact, a war mainly against the young and poor.
MsJennie November 25, 2012 at 12:29 PM


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