Officers from Prince William County, Manassas City and Manassas Park, all communities near Washington, D.C., raided 19 locations and arrested 53 people over three days last month as part of an ongoing battle against heroin and illegal prescription-drug dealing. After each arrest, reports the Washington Post, a detective or other officer sat down with the suspects and made this offer: We have a chaplain available right now to take you to a drug treatment center, where counselors are ready and waiting to get you into the treatment you need.
For a police officer to make that offer, and to have arranged the path from jail to treatment, is groundbreaking. There were six takers. Four showed up on the day of their arrest, and two more called and set up appointments after they posted bond, not always an easy task for people charged with selling heroin or Percocet or OxyContin. Even more remarkable, everyone who first made contact with counselors has since showed up for subsequent appointments or treatment. What the Virginia agencies are doing “is cutting edge,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “It is a sign of the country's shift in how it sees drug addicts.” While embracing the opportunity for treatment doesn't get the defendants a special deal with prosecutors, defense attorneys may later seek to show that their clients are sincere about overcoming addiction.