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15 September 2005
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<TD =xq>Junkie nabbed by cops after needle pickup
By Laura Crimaldi
Cops brooming druggies from the city's central parks busted a heroin addict yesterday minutes after she picked up a clean needle from a Boston Public Health van.
The arrest exposed dueling government missions in dealing with Boston's heroin scourge: curbing the spread of AIDS among addicts while keeping the abusers from doing narcotics in public places.
``We've worked very hard over the last decade to make sure we have good communications with police to minimize the likelihood that would be a problem,'' said John Auerbach, executive director of the Public Health Commission.
``Over that entire period, I can't remember a single instance where someone was getting monitored or getting arrested just as they were getting out of the van,'' he said. ``I think this is a coincidence.''
At 11:02 a.m., Joanna Leahy, 31, walked up to an unmarked city van downtown on LaGrange Street and picked up a brown paper bag from the city-run AHOPE Needle Exchange Program. Minutes later, she and another man, identified by cops as Rafeal Rodriguez, were handcuffed by MBTA police at Boylston and Tamworth streets for heroin possession. ``I just relapsed today,'' a reporter heard Leahy tell officers as she sat cuffed on the sidewalk.
The silver van, operated by the Public Health Commission, makes 22 stops a week throughout the city for addicts to exchange needles, obtain condoms and alcohol wipes, and access detox services, medical care and HIV tests. There are 2,000 people enrolled in the needle program, which issues membership cards to participants so they are protected from arrest simply for possession of a hypodermic needle, said Auerbach.
On Monday, the Herald exposed brazen drug abuse in the Common and Public Garden, prompting authorities to unleash undercover patrols and an increased mounted police presence. The heightened enforcement pushed druggies into surrounding locales such as Boylston Street, where three men were spotted yesterday making a drug deal in an alley shortly before Leahy's arrest. </TD></TR></T></TABLE></TD></TR></T></TABLE>