GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Less than a week ago, the Grand Rapids Police Department started devoting more resources to fighting the opioid epidemic, and the agency says it’s already getting results.
GRPD is assigning an additional detective to each overdose death case to focus exclusively on finding out where the drugs came from and hunting down the dealer.
The new procedure was put in place Oct. 10. On Monday, one alleged drug dealer arrested as a result of the change was charged and now faces life in prison.
Larry Perryman is believed to have supplied 31-year-old Joshua VanEssen of Kentwood with heroin. VanEssen’s family said he overdosed and died Oct. 12 in the bathroom of the downtown Rapid bus station.
GRPD said officers tracked down Perryman and arrested him the same day.
“As a result of the new policy,” GRPD Lt. Terry Dixon specified.
>>Inside woodtv.com: The opioid crisis in West Michigan
Before Oct. 10, GRPD sent one detective to a fatal overdose and that detective would focus on how the person died. But now, a second detective is sent to any suspected overdose death to pinpoint the source of the drugs.
“We have a serious issue with opioid deaths that have taken place, so we are not going to just stand around, sit and be complacent with this issue. We have taken proactive steps,” Dixon said.
VanEssen’s family was too emotional to speak on camera Monday, but his parents told 24 Hour News 8 off camera that they support the new procedure and hope it deters the flow of drugs in West Michigan.
“These kind of deaths are tragic, obviously it’s tragic to the victim, but there are families. What we hope to accomplish? Eventually, we want to prevent these deaths,” Dixon said. “We are trying our best to eliminate tragedies, eliminate deaths, eliminate the pain to families.”
Perryman is charged with multiple counts of delivery and manufacturing drugs, as well as a charge for maintaining a drug house, a felony firearms charge and a habitual offender charge.