WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Although the scourge of heroin affects Westfield residents as much as it touches the life of every American community, not much of the heroin used by local addicts is actually purchased in the city, according to local police.
The city’s good fortune is primarily due to its proximity to the illicit drug marts in nearby Holyoke and, to a lesser extent, Springfield, said Det. Sgt Stephen K. Dickinson after a recent narcotics arrest. Dickinson, who often speaks for detectives whose duties benefit from a low profile, explained that the widespread availability of low-cost heroin in the Paper City makes it a shopping destination for addicts from a wide area.
He said that there is a fiscal incentive to travel to Holyoke to buy heroin because it’s cheaper there. He explained that the same bag of heroin which might sell for $4 in Holyoke would fetch $5 in Westfield and probably at least $6 in Pittsfield so users are likely to try to get their drugs in Holyoke.
Users sometimes pool their funds and one person may go over the mountain to go shopping or an individual who has a source of regular income, a public assistance check for example, may buy as much heroin in Holyoke as his or her funds allow and then sell any that the buyer does not immediately need to his or her circle of friends and acquaintances who use the drug.
Dickinson said, however, there is often a snag, even for an addict with money in his pocket. Addicts often have difficulty supporting both their habit and a motor vehicle and, since the drug will not be denied, often have to rely on somebody else who may have a vehicle or, perhaps more often, access to a relative’s vehicle. Dickinson explained that when a drug user with cash can team up with another with a car, a shopping trip is often on the agenda and the detectives under his command recently monitored such a trip and arrested both travelers.
The lead narcotics detective reports, in a document filed at Westfield District Court, that detectives developed information which suggested that a known heroin user, Daniel J. Wall, 39, of 24 Summer Street, was expected to make a shopping trip to Holyoke. The scenario assembled by the detectives suggested that Wall, as soon as he received the funds from his monthly public assistance check, would get a ride to Holyoke to get drugs so a team of detectives, augmented by the community policing supervisor, Sgt. Eric Hall, and community policing officer, Kevin Bard, set up surveillance in the Summer and Elm streets area shortly after midnight on the Feb. 28.
Dickinson explained that public assistance checks are often no longer actual paper checks but are more frequently paid as electronic deposits to the beneficiary’s bank account and those electronic deposits are scheduled for 1 a.m. on the first day of the month. The exception, he said, is on a month when the first of the month falls on a weekend (or a Monday holiday) in which case the public assistance deposits are made after 1 a.m. on the Friday before the first of the month. He pointed out wryly that there are a limited number of reasons why a person would need cash at that hour.“Even the bars are closing,” he said.
The detective’s reports reveals that Dickinson had seen Wall leave his Summer Street apartment and walk to the ATM “where there were a number of other known and unknown individuals. Many were making transactions on the ATM machine just after 1:00 a.m.”After Wall made his transaction, the detective reports, he got into a vehicle and officers followed it to a Cleveland Avenue address where Wall was subsequently seen to enter a vehicle registered to Kirk Kummings, 44, of 12 Belmont St., Chicopee. The officers followed Kummings’ 1998 Subaru Legacy to an apartment complex in the Jarvis Heights section of Holyoke where, the detective notes, “during my years as a narcotics investigator I have arrested a number of people I had followed to this area.”
A detective who had been set up at the complex observed an unidentified man get into the car which left the complex briefly. After it came back, the detectives followed the vehicle with the two original occupants as it returned to Westfield. The detectives had arranged for officers in marked cruisers, Sgt. Jeffrey Baillargeon and Officer Jared Rowe, to be waiting on North Road and the suspect vehicle was stopped. The identities of the two men were confirmed and ten waxed baggies “labeled with a blue logo ‘American Hustle’ were found in the area of the passenger seat” which were found to contain “a white powdery substance which later field tested positive for a Class A substance” and were seized. Wall was also found to be in possession of “fifty bags of heroin with the same American Hustle logo” and $430 in cash. A single bag of heroin was also found in the area where Wall had been standing when he was removed from the car.
Both men were charged with possession of a Class A drug and were arraigned later the same day in Westfield District Court before Judge Rita Koenigs. Kummings was released on his personal recognizance pending a May 2 hearing while Wall was released on $500 cash bail.
Dickinson reports that further investigation revealed additional heroin Wall had secreted upon his person, bringing the total amount of heroin in his possession to be more than 100 bags, substantially more than would be a reasonable amount for personal consumption. Dickinson said that he has filed an amended report and the charge brought against Wall will be changed to possession of heroin with intent to distribute, a substantially more serious offense.
Kummings was initially also charged with conspiracy and Dickinson said that Wall will also be charged with that offense. Wall will return to court for a hearing on March 25.
Media Credit: The Westfield News