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Traffic cops now looking for opioids

NASHUA – Heroin, fentanyl and other opioids killed three times as many people in Nashua during the month of August as compared to August 2018, according to American Medical Response.

As the opioid crisis continues to impact the Gate City, officials with the Nashua Police Department are enhancing efforts to combat the problem. One of those is expanding training for officers in other units with the intent of helping the Narcotics Intelligence Division gather information regarding certain aspects of the epidemic.

One of those units receiving more training is Traffic Enforcement, and while officials at NPD said officers aren’t necessarily being reassigned to Narcotics, the additional training and responsibilities will help the department to continue to build criminal intelligence from officers who patrol the streets.

“We still have the traffic unit here and they’re tasked with enforcing all the problem areas for traffic and stuff, but we more or less wanted to expand the scope of what they look at,” Lt. Brian Kenney, a member of the department’s Professions Standard Bureau, said.

“If they can expand on what they’re doing, and they’re doing tragic enforcement and there’s a drug nexus there, instead of just writing speeding tickets to somebody who is speeding, they’re going to write the speeding ticket and look beyond that,” Kenney, who prior to last week, was the Divisional Supervisor for the Narcotics Intelligence Division, continued.

“Could there be contraband in the car, stuff like that,” Kenney added.

Kenney’s successor in Narcotics, Lt. Robert Page, said the specialized training will help to make the officers better.

“It’s really just bettering our police officers,” Page said.

“It’s giving them more skills to allow them to do the traffic enforcement, as well as look beyond the stop and find out some of these drug issues these drivers have, as opposed to just writing a ticket and sending them on their way,” he added.

Both officers adamantly emphasized the extra training will not have an adverse effect on the department’s ability to enforce traffic laws throughout the city, as there are still officers who will continue taking traffic complaints and patrol problem areas.

“It doesn’t take away from their original duties,” Page said. “There are still going to be officers taking those traffic complaints, responding to those specific locations, because the problems they are having at those lights, intersections and streets, and still conducting motor vehicle enforcement at those locations.”

As the extra training does not subtract from the initial responsibilities of the traffic enforcement officers who are tasked with patrolling known problem areas on the city’s roadways, both Kenney and Page said they encourage residents to continue reporting violations they witness so officials can address any problems.

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil, so if we don’t know you’re frustrated with a certain situation, then we’re not going to know that we’re going to need to fix that for you,” Kenney said.

“Especially, if it’s not something someone else has already complained about, they’re out there doing traffic enforcement, and trying to enforce it the best they can,” he added. If there is a particular area that they didn’t know to concentrate on, we need people to tell us that.”

Because of the prevalence of the opioids, Page said the more officers trained in capacities to assist in that area, the better.

“Let’s face it – it’s an ongoing problem. It’s something that’s not going to slow down anytime soon,” Page said.

“We need to reallocate some time … to certain areas, in this case the opioid problem, to try and combat the problems we’re having,” Page added.

Mathew Plamondon may be reached at 594-1244, or at mplamondon@nashuatelegraph.com, @telegraph_MatP.