(WBNG Binghamton) A gritty, oftentimes dangerous undercurrent runs through the quiet towns and serene countryside of Delaware County, and it's costing resources and constant attention of law enforcement, who teeter daily on winning and losing the battle.
But they are battling.
"We're doing everything we can do. We're working night and day," said Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond. "It's a prolific problem. It's something like we haven't seen. I'm a fourth-generation Delaware County resident, and I've never seen problems such as these."
The drug of choice is prescription, like the lucrative Oxycontin or Oxycodone, or an addiction rooted in it, like the cheaply made and sold heroin.
What began as occasional small-time crime for mostly small-town cops and deputies, has grown into a daily drug-fed routine for a law enforcement community that's been forced to grow increasingly sophisticated.
And the results are staggering.
"The last 15 years that I've been sheriff, about every year our crime numbers, which we depend on, are constantly going up,” said Delaware Sheriff Thomas Mills. “This year, they're rather significant."
The sheriff's office arrested four people dealing prescription drugs between 2009 and 2011. They arrested five times that – 20 arrests -- in just 11 months last year, according to data provided by the sheriff's office.
One person was arrested for selling and possessing cocaine between 2009 and 2011. Two people were arrested for the same offenses in just two weeks in Decembe, records show.
The sheriff’s office is growing increasingly dependent on the help of confidential informants, men and women who – if permitted by the courts – receive lesser sentences in exchange for their services. Those services could include providing information, buying and selling drugs or otherwise acting on behalf of law enforcement.
It helps the sheriff’s office chip away, but the work is constant.
"It just seems to be non-stop,” said Delaware County Deputy John Demeo. “It just seems like it gets busier and busier every year. It just seems like the numbers are climbing. They're definitely not decreasing.”
Beyond opportunity, though, Delaware County is desolate and easily accessible. It’s bucolic, providing natural cover required for undisturbed operation.
"It's coming from all over the state,” DuMond said. “We have drugs running from New York City to Albany then back to Syracuse and into Delaware County, in that region. Up and down the interstate corridors and such."
When asked whether the sheriff’s office has enough men and women on the streets to combat a problem that's grown over the past year, Mills said simply, “No."
Added DuMond: "To totally eradicate this problem, you know, it would take a small army, and the taxpayer can't afford a small army.”
In the past year, hundreds of bags of heroin have been sold to undercover deputies from the pockets of pushers -- pills, powder, cocaine -- all leading to the largest drug bust in Delaware County history: The arrest of Jason Wilsey, 33, of Davenport, who is charged with stealing pure Oxycodone powder from the Hobart-based Covidien, where he worked the night shift in the blending department.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part-series on the growing drug problem in Delaware County. Part two – which deals specifically with the arrest of Jason Wilsey – continues Wednesday.