Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (Pontiac) – Officers in the Milwaukee Suburb of Wauwatosa had a recent run in with an alleged opiate dealer. The man was arrested after officers disabled his empty car, then waited for his return. However, a recent Fifth Column News article casts doubt on whether the department is documenting what it captures in the suburb. Of the drugs captured in Wauwatosa, how much will the public be aware of, if yearly capture statistics ‘don’t exist’ ?
According to Wauwatosa Patch, 21 year old Amari Hampton was arrested by officers patrolling Mayfair Mall’s parking lot. Officers allegedly tagged the car after linking it to a stolen car report by Milwaukee PD.
Patch cites the criminal complaint, which reputedly states officers removed fuses and searched the car upon discovery. Hampton was arrested by officers who then surveilled the van and waited for him to return. A second search was then conducted, yielding 19.7 grams of fentanyl, 23.8 grams of heroin, and a small amount of cannabis. The drugs were found in various parts of the cars interior, but weren’t mentioned during the first search.
Hampton was charged with possession with intent to deliver, use of a dangerous weapon, and firearm possession against a court order. His arrest came and went in Wauwatosa without discussion of the many questions it invokes.
First, the large amounts of fentanyl and heroin in his car alludes to Wauwatosa’s localized opiate issues. It’s a problem that isn’t well understood for the suburb, and data remains scarce. In an email to the author, Wauwatosa Health Department Nursing supervisor Courtney Day said WHD is, “currently pulling together,” recent survey data. “Updated statistics on these health issues will be available in our full report that will be released later this year”, she wrote.
Although data for Wauwatosa is a work in progress, Milwaukee County has already conducted extensive studies. One report titled “888 Bodies And Counting” described a 495% increase in heroin-related overdoses. The report, compiled by the office of Common Council President Michael Murphy, analyzed overdoses from 2005-2015. It’s findings show a disturbing county-wide plague, now exceeding car accident deaths, and homicide.
If you’re in the suburbs, you’re not safe despite misconceptions to the contrary. For heroin, whites between the ages of 20-29 represented a clear majority. Overdoses for African American addicts trended older, 40’s and 50’s, and towards cocaine. “All corners of the city”, the report noted, are flooded regardless of if it’s suburbs or the inner city.
Fentanyl, though not largely found among the dead, is steadily on the increase. Notably more potent than heroin, Fentanyl is an ever expanding problem. A VICE News documentary followed users of the drug, and presented the grim realities they face. Even they, Canadian users in the VICE piece, stressed how debilitating and swift withdrawals hit. It’s a drug that interviewed users warned was more potent, deadly, and gripping than heroin.
Leading into the second point, which is ensuring people know what’s going on around them. The Wauwatosa Police Department makes public yearly drug captures, and breakdowns, in it’s annual reports. These statistics, however, only represent captures for WPD’s Special Operations Group (SOG).
When Fifth Column News journalists open records requested statistics for the entire department, WPD stonewalled. “No records as described exist” a department administrative sergeant claimed. If that’s the case–alongside the health department’s lack of data–contextualizing Wauwatosa’s opioid issues becomes difficult.
Questioning why exactly the department isn’t documenting what it’s capturing in the city also is necessary. Why is it that only data for a small 2-4 officer unit of a 90-strong department exists? Does this lack of transparency ultimately shield citizens from the extent of drug issues surrounding them?
Amari Hampton’s arrest and alleged possession of two dangerous, in-demand opiates should concern Wauwatosa. Not just for it’s superficial substance, but for the looming implications it erects. How extensive is the opiate issue in Wauwatosa? What drugs, and of what quantity, is the police department seizing on a regular basis? Why is it that they won’t make these full statistics public?
This article was prepared by Isiah Holmes for The Pontiac Tribune.