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PHOENIX -- When police officers catch someone shoplifting or breaking into a car, they will often ask the suspect why they did it.

Peoria Public Information Officer Amanda Jacinto said, most of the time, the answer is to pay for drugs.

"In less than 10 years time, research has shown that heroin use in the U.S., as a whole, has doubled," she said.

According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2011, a report produced by the U.S. Department of Justice, increased heroin production in Mexico and the increased involvement of Mexican cartels in the distribution of South American heroin have led to wider heroin availability. The report said heroin enters the U.S. primarily in southern California, south Texas and, increasingly, Arizona.

"It seems that those that were using prescription drugs, those that were using cocaine, those that were some of the more expensive drugs are finding that heroin is not only cheaper, it's more potent," said Jacinto.

Recently, the Peoria Police Department held a community meeting for parents, teachers, coaches and anyone involved with teenagers and young adults.

Jacinto said changes in behavior are a common indicator that someone is using drugs. In the case of heroin, she said parents often notice spoons go missing in the home because they are used to cook the drug. Strips of tin foil with black lines, lighters and butane burners are also telltale signs.

Christina Estes, Reporter

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