WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury is getting some new help in its fight against illegal drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is working with different Waterbury groups and agencies to educate young people about the dangers of drug use.
It’s all part of a pilot program that the DEA discussed with the public Wednesday morning.
“It is about having all of the partners in Waterbury who are really attached to youths and adolescents and substance abuse issues in the room working together, across their agencies,” said Lena Hackett, senior advisor to the DEA Administrator.
Waterbury police have uncovered thousands of bags of drugs within the last few years.
Last year, Waterbury police raided two homes and turned up three guns and more than 3,100 bags of heroin.
This past April, the DEA and local police seized 200,000 bags of fentanyl, 22 kilos of narcotics, and $150,000 in cash in the Waterbury area, officials said.
When people think about the DEA, they often think about drug raids and people in handcuffs. The DEA says that with this pilot program, it is taking a very different approach.
“There’s a saying: ‘You’re not going to arrest your way out of this problem.’ It’s true,” Hackett said. “Law enforcement has its role, and community and public health and social services have their role, and we want to bring those together.”
With a new approach, the DEA is looking to make education a top priority.
“We’re really excited about focusing on drug addiction in our community from a different approach, right?” Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo said. “More of an educational approach, more of a holistic conversation.”
Educating kids about drugs when they’re young is crucial, officials said. Groups that concentrate on kids, like the YMCA, said federal resources will also be a big help.
“Well, it’s great because the more resources we have for the city, the better off our youth are within the city,” said Waterbury YMCA CEO James O’Rourke. “It also shows the power of Waterbury and how we collaborate and work together.”
The DEA chose Waterbury as one of only three cities for this pilot program because people in the Brass City collaborate so well, officials said.