RICHMOND, Va. – As state and local police bark outrage into TV cameras about ‘drug abuse’ and ‘urban decay’, lamenting spikes in violent crime, one often-overlooked piece of the picture in the war on drugs is the people actually using drugs.
To people like 27-year-old Jeff Norment, the heroin coming down I-75 from Detroit is “a God-send.” Norment says heroin has improved his life considerably, although his point of view is often brushed aside in favor of order and public safety.
“I was eating 20 and 40 pills a day, you name it, I was doing it,” Norment said, looking real cool. “But it was hell on my liver. But now that I’m on heroin – I’m in Heaven!”
Norment argued that the Richmond media – TV news in particular – does not represent all sides of the story, with a tendency to favor police and marginalize victims.
“Typical TV news story: we went to the Richmond police. We went to the state police,” Norment said. “But they didn’t come a-callin’ for old Jeff, saying, ‘Jeff how you liking them drugs?’ Now how are you gonna call that objective journalism and tell me I’m the bad guy?”
Norment argued that his voice is the missing piece of the story of a so-called ‘heroin epidemic’ in Richmond.
“I smoke crack on the reg. I snort dust on the reg. I shoot heroin on the reg, and you don’t see me committing no crimes. I just like me the rush, is all. And I like to lay here on this sofa playing PlayStation.”
Norment, who lives near the Grace Street Police Station, said police knock on his door almost every day – sometimes looking for suspects – sometimes just to break his balls.
“I know it ain’t good for me,” Norment said, rolling his eyes. “They’re always telling me that.”
Norment said if it weren’t for the police, he would have fewer problems.
“Thanks to heroin,” Norment said, “I’ve dodged a few bullets, both figuratively and literally. Shit, heroin even helps me escape the crushing reality of using heroin.”
28-year-old VCU alum Stephen Ascot says heroin affords him a certain lifestyle. The only difference, Ascot said, is that he is not on heroin.
“My weed dealer across the street gets me what I need, but he doesn’t give me heroin,” Ascot said. “I just know he’s going to be there, because he is on heroin.”
Richmond Police Captain Mike Ebert said drugs might feel good now, but addicts will “be pretty sore” about the crackdown on horse pouring in from Detroit.
“It’s easy to get addicted to the stuff, you just put it in your arm,” Ebert said. “But they’re going to be pretty sore about it when there ain’t no more heroin left for sale on the streets, after they do it all up.”
Ebert said his department is working with state police to set up checkpoints along the I-75 corridor to catch heroin traffickers coming down from the Motor City.
“Of course, the stops are designed to appear random,” he said. “But they’re not. We’ll know who to stop.”
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