Law enforcement agencies across the Mohawk Valley and Central New York have reported a steady increase in bath salts-related incidents recently. This week has been an especially busy one in the City of Utica. Officers responded to three of the drug-fueled cases on the Fourth of July alone. Our Sarah Blazonis has details.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Utica Police are gaining a lot of experience when it comes to spotting the signs of someone on bath salts.
"They feel like they're being followed, they rip their clothes off because they feel like their skin is burning. It's extremely dangerous," said Sgt. Steven Hauck, public information officer for the Utica Police Department.
The department has dealt with such cases before, but the past month has seen a huge increase, including three incidents on the Fourth of July.
The first report came into Utica Police around 1:45 Wednesday from the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute. People at the scene told officers they believed a man had locked himself in a bathroom with a knife. Police were able to take the man, who was actually carrying a screwdriver, into custody.
Officers later responded to Park Ave., where a man said he believed there were either burglars or squirrels in his house.
Another call led them to a man lying in a wooded area near Route 12 who told them he believed he was paralyzed.
Each of the men admitted to recently taking bath salts.
"It's the accessibility," said Sgt. Hauck. "These drugs are very easily obtained locally. They're sold in head shops, they can obtain them online."
The sale and distribution of bath salts is banned in New York, but manufacturers continue to change the drug's chemical makeup to get it into the hands of customers. This also makes it hard to take action against users.
"We end up shipping them to the hospitals for either a mental evaluation or physical evaluation and when we do that, we're overloading their staff with these potentially violent people," said Hauck.
Mayor Rob Palmieri says he plans to propose legislation that would make the sale and possession of synthetic drugs, including bath salts, illegal in the city. The mayor says information on the plan has already been sent to the City Council.