(CBS) — A heroin epidemic is hitting the suburbs and more people are dying.
While heroin-related hospital admissions in Chicago are down, latest numbers show they are up by 200 percent in the suburbs.
When it comes to deaths, Lake, Will and DuPage counties reported big increases last year. As CBS 2’s Dave Savini reports, drug dealers could be operating right in your own neighborhood.
Police outside of Chicago are zeroing in on dope dealers, and the number-one target is heroin.
CBS 2 joined the Joliet narcotics unit on a recent undercover buy. Police moved in and an alleged dealer who is accused of selling 1.5 grams of heroin to an undercover officer for $200.
The Joliet drug unit has seized millions of dollars’ worth of heroin in just the last year.
The drug is taking a toll. Last year, 53 people died from heroin in Will County, which is up from 17 in 2008. That is a 212 percent increase in heroin-related deaths.
“I think a lot of our society is unaware of our heroin epidemic,” one of the Joliet undercover officers says. “And the fact that one time can kill you is devastating.”
After making the buy and getting a warrant, police last week entered the home and arrested Edward Peterson for selling heroin from a Joliet home next to a school and church.
“I hate heroin,” says Caroline Kacena, whose son John got hooked on heroin while a junior at Naperville’s Neuqua Valley High School. “It took my only son and my beloved boy.”
He started using his junior year, buying it in on Central Avenue in Chicago, just off the 290 Expressway, and selling it in the suburbs to feed his own habit.
In Lake County, the sheriff recently created a new drug unit to tackle the problem.
“It’s widely used throughout Lake County,” Sgt. Gianni Giamberduca says. “It’s causing a lot of overdoses, a lot of deaths.”
Heroin makes up more than half their cases, and it is causing more deaths: 35 last year, up from 8 in 2008. That is a 338 percent increase in heroin-related deaths.
In McHenry County, Ken Chiakas’ 17-year-old daughter Stephanie, an honor roll student at Crystal Lake South High School, died in March from a heroin-related overdose.
Last year, there were 16 similar deaths in McHenry County.
“I tried warning my kids about it,” an emotional Chiakas says. “It’s the worst feeling the world. I don’t want anyone to ever feel this pain.”
In Naperville, Kacena says the community was a great place to raise kids. But she says her son had to move away from Naperville to get away from the drug.
He returned home after six weeks. The very next day, she found him in his room — dead from heroin.
“I will think about him every moment, every breath,” Kacena says.
In DuPage County, there has been a 48-percent increase in heroin deaths since 2008.
Cook County does not track heroin deaths.
Heroin is more potent these days and often is snorted instead of injected — that means there will not be track marks.
One national survey says every year some 34,000 teens aged 12 to 17 try heroin for the first time.