Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Standing Together against Heroin

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Standing Together against Heroin

Article excerpt

RINGWOOD -- Local police and residents have joined the common cause of combating a heroin abuse problem that law enforcement officials say is increasingly claiming the lives of young people.

Police in Ringwood this week began waging a public information campaign against the addictive opiate, while graduates of the area high school are planning a rally on April 7 in which they hope to form a chain of several hundred people with the message "Stop the Dope."

"We're going to too many wakes," said Ringwood Police Chief Bernard Lombardo. "In 30 years of law enforcement, I've never seen this many young men and women dying. ... One is too many. These are kids."

A report by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office found that heroin overdose was the cause of three deaths in Ringwood, a close- knit, middle class suburb of 12,000, from September 2011 to September 2012. At least two other borough residents, both in their early 20s, have died of overdoses since then, Lombardo said, and recent graduates of Lakeland Regional High School in Wanaque count about up to five deaths of former classmates in the last few months.

The most recent death last week, of a 23-year-old Wanaque man, prompted action from a number of fellow Lakeland graduates. On Saturday, a day after the man's funeral, Angelica Benavides, a 2005 graduate, created a Facebook event for an anti-heroin rally. The plan, she said, is to raise awareness of substance abuse with a human chain of people stretched across Ringwood Avenue, the main thoroughfare connecting Ringwood and Wanaque.

As of Friday, more than 700 people had expressed interest in attending.

"The idea just sparked and caught like wildfire," said Laura Allen, a 2006 Lakeland graduate and another of the event's organizers. "We want to line the streets hand-in-hand and show how much we care about our community."

Allen, 25, who now lives in Lyndhurst and is studying special education, said she is bewildered about the allure of heroin among youth. High school students in her class knew it was dangerous and to not experiment with it, she said. …

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