The Hippo


Jul 15, 2019








Devin Rooney. Photo courtesy of Cathy Johnson.

Walk for Devin

The Devin Rooney Walk for Awareness of Drug Addiction and Overdose will be held Thursday, Aug. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. Search for the event on Facebook for details. 

The borderlands
How N.H. and Mass are teaming up to tackle drugs

By Ryan Lessard

 Devin Rooney died of an overdose at Howard Park in Lawrence, Massachusetts, last year on Sept. 4. On Aug. 31, his mother, Cathy Johnson of Hudson, will return to that park for the first annual Devin Rooney Walk for Awareness of Drug Addiction and Overdose. 

Nearly 100 people are expected to walk the blocks surrounding the park in Lawrence, a city that’s often cited by law enforcement as a source for drugs that end up in New Hampshire. Johnson and others plan to descend upon the area in full view of drug dealers with a candlelight vigil in the hopes of disrupting illicit business there. Lawrence police will be providing some security.
One of the things that makes this event unusual is how it involves both New Hampshire and Massachusetts people, and organizations from both states are represented. 
Johnson said that participants in Hope for NH Recovery and the Derry chapter of FASTER (Families Advocating Substance, Treatment, Education and Recovery) will be walking together with members of Massachusetts-based recovery centers.
“This crisis knows no boundaries, not state lines nor economic lines,” Johnson said. “I just want to make people aware of, not only the epidemic, but the people that its affecting. It’s not just affecting people that are down and out or people that don’t have families. It’s affecting hardworking men and women who have families and are trying to make it in life.”
Teaming up
As such, officials have had to ramp up their cross-border partnerships in the past few years, especially in law enforcement. New Hampshire State Police Sergeant Mark Hall runs the Mobile Enforcement Team. It was created in 2015 with him and three other troopers who were specially trained to identify people trafficking illegal drugs. Because most of the drugs entering the state tend to come from Massachusetts, Hall said the MET unit focuses the majority of its efforts along the southern border.
“It definitely is a vast majority of our work [that] comes from points south,” Hall said. “A big part of what we do is work with other agencies.”
He said his unit works directly with Massachusetts State Police on a regular basis, often sharing leads that could result in cross-border arrests and drug seizures.
Earlier this summer Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation that funds an additional five troopers for the MET unit, in hopes of improving drug interdiction efforts.
Hall said the cooperation with Massachusetts authorities has certainly increased in just the past few years in response to the opioid addiction crisis.
“We’re right there dealing with the same problems and the same people,” Hall said.
John Encarnacao, who was promoted from lieutenant to captain Aug. 18, had been the head of the state police narcotics and investigations unit. He’s been with New Hampshire State Police for nearly 20 years, so he has seen that increase in cooperation between the two states first hand.
“The level of cooperation right now is better than I have ever seen it in my career,” Encarnacao said.
He said the Massachusetts and New Hampshire State Police departments have always worked well together but when he worked undercover about 15 years ago there was a lot less communication and overlap in their investigation efforts.
“Back a number of years ago, a lot of things were done hush-hush. One agency wouldn’t necessarily inform the other of cases they were working and things that they were doing,” Encarnacao said.
As the years went on, leaders in the two departments developed more contacts, policies were set up to “deconflict” cases so overlapping cases didn’t collide, and new High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area units were set up to fight drugs across both jurisdictions.
But the crisis in the past few years has pushed that cooperation even further, he said, especially as more and more New Hampshire-based addicts are driving down to places like Lawrence, Massachusetts, to buy drugs that they bring back to towns all across the Granite State to sell. Until recently, the drug-trafficking business was more concentrated in urban centers like Manchester.
“It’s really forced us to operate in that manner,” Encarnacao said.
Often, Massachusetts State Police will reach out to New Hampshire detectives with information about a case they’re working on or vice versa when an investigation leads an agency over the border. Sometimes, Encarnacao said, a case can begin as a cross-agency partnership. 

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu