Middleburg, PA – On Tuesday, Snyder County Coroner William Pheasant confirmed the death of a 31-year-old Middleburg resident and 2004 Selinsgrove High School graduate, John Michael Arcuri, of a suspected drug overdose. While this loss hits our community, across the nation many members of law enforcement are saying things have to change.
The cause for Arcuri’s death has not been officially established; county officials have requested a toxicology screening of Arcuri’s blood to determine if opioids were involved.
If confirmed as an overdose, Arcuri’s passing would mark only the second drug related death in Snyder county this year. Snyder county is among the least impacted in the state by what District Attorney Mike Piecuch has called an “epidemic”. By comparison, Union county has had 3 confirmed drug related fatalities; Northumberland county has reported 17 drug related deaths this year. A recent Drug Enforcement Agency study claims that there were 3,383 deaths attributed to illicit substances across Pennsylvania for 2015.
Being quoted in a July 19th article, Piecuch recycled a previous comment stating “we can’t arrest our way out of this.” Piecuch is also quoted in the article echoing words near verbatim from recent viral comments made by a mourning Dallas Police Chief David Brown saying “I’m tired of law enforcement having to solve the problem.” Tilting to the macabre, Piecuch curiously offered “I would have thought dead bodies would have been enough.”
Current practices that focus on arrests only encourage a more robust black market. Consumers and suppliers becoming more desperate or possibly violent in order to avoid capture, turning black markets even darker. Much of the public and even many high profile figures are turning their back to the War on Drugs completely. They argue heavy handed prosecution is only a means to collect fines and fill jails, thereby gaining access to funding that comes with it.
DA Piecuch’s recent comments, however, do not seem to align with his office’s approach to prosecuting. As recently as this spring, citizens were calling out the DA for colluding with private security to farm fines and fees from younger county residents. Flaunting that a loophole had been found Piecuch declared the Constitution “does not apply.”
After Mr Piecuch initially stated on July 14th that we “can’t arrest our way out of this,” SCC asked if the Snyder County District Attorney’s Office would be reviewing or reevaluating its policies regarding prosecuting possession of small amounts of marijuana. Piecuch said that current practices seeking convictions followed by “fines” and a “period of probation” would remain. Ironically Piecuch declared “no plans to change that.”
In study after study of recidivism, previous criminal convictions for minor offenses has been linked to increased use of hard drugs as well as repeat incarceration. The data is clear, criminal records for nonsense charges ruins lives. The easiest, and most effective, solution to avoid sending people down a life of desperation is to not saddle them with the weight of a nonsense conviction. Before the count grows higher we should hope our county officials become open to changing more than their talking points.