KENNER, La. - Amber Hollis was a waitress at Franny’s Place Family Restaurant in Kenner and a nursing student at Delgado Community College.
But in October, the 23-year-old was found dead inside a Kenner home in the 2100 block of Kansas Avenue. An autopsy revealed she had overdosed on heroin.
Authorities say Hollis' death is just one example of the growing number of heroin overdoses in the metro area. The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office has recorded 63 heroin-related deaths in 2013, with some toxicology results pending for deaths in the final weeks of December.
That's more than one heroin-related death every week in Jefferson Parish -- the most authorities have seen. And they hope to send a message to anyone who deals the drug.
“You're going to deal drugs, you're going to be held accountable,” said Kenner Police Sgt. Brian McGregor.
Lana Marie Cristina, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly selling Hollis heroin before her death.
Kenner police typically make 30 to 50 arrests for heroin distribution each year, said McGregor. While there has not been a significant increase in arrests for heroin distribution, police say there has been an uptick in calls for service for overdose scares.
And McGregor believes an increase in heroin addiction is fueling other crimes.
“When we bring the individuals into the police department and we are interviewing these perpetrators that are committing these thefts and burglaries and so forth, they are telling us they are addicted and they are addicted to heroin” said McGregor. “They are feeding that habit by committing these crimes.”
That’s exactly what Jeffrey Rudolph, 43, told Kenner police, said McGregor. Rudolph has been charged with six separate thefts since November. The most recent arrest was this weekend.
And Kenner police believe a 50 percent uptick in robberies in 2013 over the prior year is partially due to heroin addiction.
“Drugs are fueling crime," McGregor said. "That's what the problem is."
Authorities say heroin addiction is a growing problem throughout the metro area because prescription pills are becoming more expensive and harder to come by.
Kenner Police say they are working with other local jurisdictions and the DEA, and they encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity in their neighborhood to call authorities.