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One dead from heroin overdose in Portsmouth

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 23. 2014 1:53PM

PORTSMOUTH – One of three people who appear to have overdosed on heroin in a 24-hour period in the city has died.

Portsmouth Police confirmed Friday that Simone Sclafani, 37, was pronounced dead at Portsmouth Hospital Wednesday afternoon. Police said Sclafani was not a city resident and he did not have a permanent address.

Schwartz said based on evidence recovered at the three separate scenes, all three individuals injected the drug.

Police have not yet confirmed whether the heroin is tainted but said they are concerned because having three overdoses in a 24-hour period in a community of about 25,000 residents is statistically high.

Schwartz said they are not sure if the cases are connected or if the heroin was obtained from a common source, so their efforts now are focused on getting the word out to the heroin-using community to exercise extreme caution.

“The police department’s job is to hold people accountable to the law, so we will arrest people possessing or dealing heroin or facilitating the sale of heroin … but our top priority is to keep people safe and alive,” Schwartz said.

Investigations are ongoing to see if the cases are connected.

“We will certainly do analysis to see if there is a commonality with each scene and at each overdose, but those things take time, and when it comes to keeping people safe, time is critical,” Schwartz said.

No specific information about the victims has been released. Schwartz said the cause of death for the man who died last night has not yet been determined pending toxicology screens.

“But the police department is certainly treating this as a heroin overdose,” Schwartz said.

He said the two other victims are a man and a woman each under the age of 30.

The first report came in at 10 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a response to another scene at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and another at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Schwartz said they are trying to get the information out through the press, the police department’s social media accounts, and through conversations with social service agencies that provide services to drug users.

Schwartz said heroin today is a “cheap and nasty thing” and users really do not know what they are getting.

“It can change hands many times before the user puts it in their body,” Schwartz said.

He said reports of heroin use are on the rise, and not just on the Seacoast.

“We have had conversations with folks at the County Attorney’s Office and folks at the Attorney General’s Office and it is rampant throughout the state,” Schwartz said.

The problem also extends beyond New Hampshire. Schwartz said in reviewing press releases about this issue throughout the country Wednesday night, he was overwhelmed by the number warning people to be careful of the heroin that is currently available.

“It’s so cheap and easily accessible,” Schwartz said.

And the problem is not specific to low-income areas. Schwartz said the scenes his detective have responded to in the last 24 hours have each been different.

“I know this year we have done several drug sweeps in public housing and none of this was in public housing,” Schwartz said, but the scenes are in fact have been nice condominiums and houses with nice cars in the driveway.

“So this is not something that is happening in any public housing at this time, but happens down the street from wherever you are,” Schwartz said.

Crime, law and justice Public Safety Portsmouth

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