Town & Country break-ins may be the result of drug ‘epidemic’
By: Molly James
Town & Country police are looking for three suspects in the wake of two recent burglaries. The suspects were last seen driving a black, boxy SUV.
On Aug. 22, a home in Conway Estates was ransacked and jewelry stolen. A home on Mason Ridge also was targeted and the alarm was set off when the suspects pried the door; however, no entry was made. The house on Conway Estates also was equipped with an alarm system, but it was not turned on when the residents left the house.
Lt. Rick Kranz, of Town & Country Police, said many homes in the area are likely targets due to quick access to a highway and high value items. With gold hovering near the $1,600 mark thieves are savvy about what to take.
“Even if you are going to run errands and think you will only be gone five minutes go ahead and set your alarm,” Kranz said. “Burglaries are up because of gold prices and thieves will often look for jewelry or silverware. They know what to look for and they will go right for the bedroom or dining room.”
Kranz advises residents to remain aware of any type of suspicious activity.
“We want our residents to be vigilant at all times. Check your home and your neighbor’s home and do not hesitate to call the police if you see a suspicious vehicle in the area,” Kranz said. “We are more than happy to come over and check it out.”
Kranz indicated that break-ins such as these are often related to drug use in the St. Louis area. In the past couple years, he said he has noticed that the rate of burglaries is on the rise and that almost everyone they arrest is addicted to some drug.
Dan Duncan, director of community services for the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse (NCADA) for the St. Louis area, shared a picture of the problem.
“Nobody sees themselves getting addicted. Everyone thinks they are stronger, bigger, better and yet it starts with one use,” Duncan said. “Addiction plays no favorites; it is not a matter of where you live or how much money you have.”
Kranz agreed that it’s a tough issue.
“They (people who commit crimes to feed their habits) often come from good families,” Kranz said. “They are addicted to heroin and they can’t get rid of it.”
Duncan agrees that NCADA is seeing young people turning to heroin, but said “it doesn’t start there.” He cited examples of young people starting with “prescription drugs they get them from the doctor, the black market, or their parents’ medical closet.”
“By using mood altering chemicals at a young age, when the brain is still developing, this is creating a neuron pathway for future addiction,” Duncan said. He also noted that cost plays a role and heroin can be cheaper at first than buying prescription pills on the black market.
“A ‘button,’ one capsule of heroin is $10 versus a prescription pill that is $30 to $60,” Duncan said. “So they switch over to heroin even though they know that it is a dangerous drug. Because of (their) addiction they have lost the ability to control what they will or won’t do.”
Heroin initially may be cheaper but it is also stronger and eventually what started as only $10 a day can escalate to $20, $30 or hundreds of dollars per day as a person’s tolerance grows, Duncan said.
“Now the brain’s response to this mood-altering chemical requires more of the drug to feel ‘normal,’” Duncan said. “Even kids of affluence are having a difficult time coming up with money.”
Duncan said that it becomes a matter of desperation, and addicts are willing to do things they would never have done in an unaltered state. He noted that an addict may begin by selling their possessions at a pawn shop.
“When that runs out parents say their cash and checks start missing,” Duncan said. “One would be stealing from you name it. …. This whole incident that happened in Town & Country is happening across the county.”
The NCADA St. Louis branch has seen heroin use numbers rise in the past two years.
“Almost 500 people died in the last two years from heroin or prescription drugs in the Greater St. Louis area and they were mostly under 30,” Duncan said.
He knows firsthand, from the families he meets through his organization, the gravity of the situation.
“I’ve met so many parents whose kids have already died and they made a real fatal error in trying this stuff to begin with,” Duncan said. “We have been calling it an epidemic because it is an epidemic.”
The NCADA has a campaign called “Not-even-once” because the addicting effects of heroin begin after one use.
“We feel it is important to raise the awareness level. Parents need to talk to their kids, keep medicines away from them, and be on top of this issue starting at a young age,” Duncan said. “Parents need to protect their teens because there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet.”
Duncan invited parents and community members to check out ncada-stl.org or call (314) 962-3456.