(WJLA) - On one April night in Annapolis this year, five people overdosed on heroin. Neighbors found three of the users in this residential parking lot.
In neighboring Anne Arundel County, 172 people have overdosed since January, with 22 dead. In Calvert County, seven have died, and Sheriff Mike Evans think that Annapolis is the source of all of the drugs involved:
"It was obvious that people were getting it here because they were dying here."
The Maryland state capital has for some reason become a regional heroin capital, the heart of an epidemic. Last fall, police in several jurisdictions and Annapolis recognized the problem and began to make undercover buys.
On Tuesday, they announced the arrests of nine alleged dealers, including the five pictured here. They seized drugs and paraphernalia and they hope that they slowed down the rate of dangerous overdoses.
"This year, five overdose victims have purchased drugs from people we've identified," explains Chief Mike Pristoop with the Annapolis Police Department.
Police say the heroin buyers are typically suburbanites in their 20's, many of whom have graduated from prescription painkillers. Hundreds of them have been arrested as well. To put a real dent in this fast-growing trend, however, police say it's the dealers who need to be locked up:
"These folks who intentionally bring this poison into our communities and literally kill people with overdose after overdose," says Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis.