Heroin addicts turn themselves into police

Posted at 8:19 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 20:19:28-04

Fed up with arresting heroin addicts over and over again, Lodi police officers are working with a former addict and taking a new approach to end the heroin epidemic.

Working with the PAARI Project, the Lodi Police Department encouraged people struggling with addiction to turn themselves into police. In return, police will help them get the treatment they need.

Nicole Walmsley, a former addict, brought the project to Lodi's attention. She pitched the idea to 50 departments before Lodi got on board. 

"Nobody was there, when I wanted help. There were no resources," Walmsley said.

Through the project, anyone in the Lodi area with an opiate addiction could turn themselves into police. They'll face no criminal charges, but immediately get the help getting on the path to recovery.

Lodi's police chief said this is just another way to target the epidemic head on.

"You've got to think outside the box when it comes to these type of problems," Lodi Police Chief Keith Keough told us.

Keough said, through this project, addicts are sent to detox and treatment centers, both in and out of state. 

"We basically go after centers that are offering free bed space and treatment," he said. 

Their main cost? Getting people to treatment facilities. They use no public funds, and operate entirely through donations and money saved from related-events. They even run a GoFundMe page called "Airfare for Addicts." 

Walmsley said she's impressed with their progress.

"We have successfully, since January first, placed 28 addicts in rehab without insurance or income," she said. 

Keough told NewsChannel 5 they've noticed a decrease in overdoses and property crime since starting the program in January. 

Lodi is the first department in the state to implement the program. Since their success,  departments in Wellington, Creston, and Newark have followed suit.