WARNING GRAPHIC: Images released of addicts in car with traumatised child
Police in the Ohio city of East Liverpool said the intention of posting the images on their Facebook page was to deliberately shock people.
But the officials have found themselves at the centre of a debate about whether they are exploiting victims - and a child - after sharing pictures showing two overdosed heroin addicts passed out in a car. In the back seat of the vehicle sits a four-year-old boy.
“We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess.
This child can't speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody,” said the posting by East Liverpool Police Department.
“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis.”
It added: “The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it's gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that.”
NBC said that police were alerted to the vehicle when an officer saw a Ford Explorer driving erratically and then slamming on the brakes as it approached a stopped school bus that was dropping children off.
When the officer approached the driver, his head was bobbing and his speech was almost unintelligible. The driver told the officer he was taking his front seat passenger, who was passed out, to the hospital.
The officer said he reached into the vehicle, turned it off and removed the keys just as the driver attempted to get away away. It was at that point, that police said they spotted a four-year-old in the back seat.
Police said it was at that point that the driver passed out as well. Emergency responders reached the scene and administered Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
Opioid addiction is a massive problem in many of the heartland states of America. Experts have linked its spread to poverty and the impact of economic decline in many traditional manufacturing communities.
The decision by the police in East Ohio sparked heated debate on its Facebook page. Many posters said they believed police were doing the right thing by highlighting the problem. Others said that the child’s face should have been blurred, and he should not have been identified.
One poster, Donya McCobb, wrote: “It is a disease. Downgrading them won’t help them - pray for them. If u was in there shoes u would know what it's like to be an addict and an active addict is worse.”
She added: “U don’t care cause the drug don’t allow u to care. Pray for these people let's not downgrade them or judge them - that’s God’s job!”
The boy is currently in the custody of Columbiana County Children’s Services.