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Blair sees ‘huge’ overdose increase

Other emergency calls to police down

With businesses shuttered and people out of work or working from home, police in Blair County have seen a dip in calls and crime, while drug overdoses have spiked.

Tyrone police Chief John Romeo said in the past six weeks, the department’s officers have either been present for or administered Narcan to about a half dozen people overdosing on drugs.

“That’s a huge jump of probably 1,000 percent,” Romeo said, adding while overdoses occur in the borough, they are not that concentrated in such a short amount of time. “That’s unusual.”

Blair County Coroner Patricia Ross said Friday the number of overdose deaths in the county has spiked during the shutdown, with almost all of them involving people who used a combination of methamphetamine and an opioid, often fentanyl.

There have been a total of 23 overdoses since the beginning of the year until April 10, with 10 overdose deaths in March and April.

“It’s unusual when we see the same drug repeatedly,” Ross said, pointing out that methamphetmaine and fentanyl make up the bulk of the drugs in overdose deaths this year.

Most of those people who overdosed this year were in their 30s and 40s, with two in their 50s and some in their 20s, and it’s about split between males and females.

“It’s fentanyl and meth,” Ross said. “It’s deadly. It’s killing people.”

To put it in perspective, in 2019, there were 30 overdose deaths, with one of those a suicide.

Romeo said that apart from the overdoses, calls to police are down. Between March 16 and April 24, Tyrone police responded to 404 calls, with 37 of them for crimes. That’s 102 fewer calls than the same period last year and 42 fewer than in 2018.

Last year, out of 506 total calls for that time frame, there were 52 related to a crime. In 2018, there were 37 criminal calls out of 446.

The breakdown of criminal calls in the past month indicate more assaults than in previous years that had more calls to police. There were 10 assault calls this year, with nine in 2019 and six in 2018.

The past month also saw two burglaries, compared to none in 2019 and one in 2018. Thefts remained steady in comparison to previous years but, there were more uncategorized criminal calls that Romeo said are not broken down into specific offenses.

During this past month, there 17 such calls, while in 2019 there were 12 and in 2018 there were 14.

There were also about twice as many drug offenses this year during the March and April time frame than in 2018 and 2019, which saw four and three respectively.

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