Community Relations Board urges community policing to address opioids crisis

Earlier this week, the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board (CRB) sent a letter to the Miami-Dade Police Department, asking them to use community policing strategies while addressing the dramatic increase in the illegal sale and use of opioids.

The CRB supports a strong law enforcement response to the rise in the sale and use of these dangerous substances. However, as our community seeks to respond to the rash of overdoses resulting from the mixture of heroin with fentanyl and other drugs, we also need to remain vigilant to the impacts on residents of the underserved communities where these drug sales appear most evident, CRB Chairman Edward Shohat wrote in the letter.

The letter was also asking police to implement proactive strategies to engage residents as partners.

We have learned from prior interactions with citizens who feel they or their communities have been unfairly targeted and terrorized by police raids, that negative impacts can be significantly reduced and cooperation enhanced by focused outreach activities such as explaining to people why the police operations are being conducted; meeting with community leaders and community organizations to enlist their support; and reaching out to people who live and work in close proximity to the operations to reduce fear, engender cooperation and build positive relationships, the letter states.

The opioid crisis begun in 2015 and in the first nine months of 2016, the Miami Fire-Rescue stations in the Overtown neighborhood used Narcan (a medicine used as an emergency treatment for a known or suspected opioid overdose) nearly 1,700 times, more than double the rate of last year. Since 2015, at least 31 people died because of heroin and/or fentanyl overdoses in the Overtown neighborhood. Overtown is known as the “hot zone” for the growing epidemic where the opioids users are lured by the cheap packets of heroin ($10).