ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A smattering of heroin hotspots dotted an online map of New Mexico’s largest city on Friday as officials announced the new mapping tool, saying they plan to use it to track drug-use migration across the area.
At a news conference, Bernalillo County officials said the GIS map will show the public where used needles and syringes have been collected by county cleanup crews and volunteer groups in Albuquerque and elsewhere across their jurisdiction.
It also will show how many needles have been picked up at a single location, providing data that officials say can be used to make sound policy decisions and learn more about the habits of drug users.
On Friday, a cleanup crew of mostly county workers gathered at an abandoned property in northeast Albuquerque, where they collected 84 needles — the first batch to be logged in real-time — into the GIS map at bernco.gov/needles.
“What we’re hoping when the public starts to use this app is that we’ll start to get an idea of where the trouble spots are,” said Tim Gaulden, a GIS analyst for Bernalillo County.
Other counties have attempted similar initiatives in the past as the U.S. battles an opioid crisis that preliminary government statistics show resulted in about 68,000 overdose deaths nationwide last year. However, officials in Bernalillo County are not aware of efforts underway elsewhere to provide online heat maps of discarded heroin needles, said Evan Gonzales, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Behavioral Health Services.