With weekly cleanups of nearly 1,000 dirty needles in the North Clinton corridor, residents are asking why more isn't being done to deal with the crisis.
"I have never seen anything like it. It’s like they’re zombies," resident Vanilla Sanders said. "They out there all time of the night hooting and hollering, shooting up into the air."
Sanders says she’s lived off North Clinton in Rochester for more than 30 years, but has never seen the heroin problem like it is today.
“People come on the side of your fence, shoot drugs, drop their hypodermic needles anywhere they can," Sanders said. "You don’t sleep sometimes because you’re scared somebody is going to break in your house, shoot at your house.”
She says that exact thing happened recently, and she has the bullet hole to prove it. She says it’s so bad she and her neighbors are afraid to let their kids and grandkids play outside.
“We can’t even have them playing volleyball or kickball because they get so messed up on drugs they don’t care where they urinate, where they crap at, they don’t mind showing themselves to little girls. They don’t care.” Sanders said.
Numbers from the Monroe County Task Force say that since the beginning of the year through the end of June, there have been nearly 600 overdoses in Monroe County, 85 of them fatal. The numbers are on pace to surpass last year's totals.
“If people don’t find those numbers staggering and eye opening, than that’s part of the issue," said Sergeant Brett Sobieraski, with the Rochester Police Department and Monroe County Heroin Drug Task Force. "Because these aren’t all 20-year-olds, or teenagers. We’re losing grandmas and grandpas, people in their 50’s.”
The nonprofit outreach group Find Your Path set up shop in the North Clinton corridor two years ago in response to the problem.
“There’s been, it's termed as a perfect storm," Director Jonathan Westfall said. "There have been a number of socioeconomic conditions, things that have gone on with prescription drugs.”
He says a cutbacks in prescription medication left a void, so many addicts turned to heroin, which is much cheaper and more available.
“It really is a crisis at this point, a health crisis.” Westfall said.
We spoke with one recovering heroin addict, Christopher Perry, who now helps weekly to clean up the North Clinton corridor. Perry first shot up heroin at the age of 16, and was in and out of jail and homeless for the better part of a decade due to his addiction.
“I was living in a gazebo on Drive and Park, eating donuts out of a dumpster," Perry said. "I had accepted that as my life, I wasn’t showering, I was really living on an animalistic level.”
Even after almost losing his leg to a MRSA infection, he didn’t stop until he was approached by Hope Dealers, the organization he is now a part of.
“Something within me was just, 'I am done,'" Perry said. "I have experienced enough pain, my spirit is broken, I need help or I am going to die.”
He says getting high wasn’t for fun, but for survival, to ward off the intense pain of withdrawals.
“I like to compare it to an allergy," Perry said. "If I put a drug or a drink in me, I have an allergic reaction where I can’t stop, and that’s where the disease lies.”
Perry says the biggest problem he sees today is a lack of resources to get those seeking detox a bed.
“When you’re using, the window is so small, where you'll have moments where you're looking for detox," Perry said. "And that window being so small if we can’t get people a bed, 24 sometimes 48 hours. A lot of times they wake up the next morning and it’s back to ripping and running, back to getting one more.”
While Perry says he sees progress, he wants more done. And so does Sanders.
“There’s gotta be more done to get these people from over here," Sanders said. "They’re like zombies walking around doing drugs. There’s kids in this neighborhood.”
Spectrum News took these concerns from neighbors and advocates, and took them right to top law enforcement in Monroe County to get some answers. Part two of the investigation will air Thursday on Spectrum News.