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CBS4 Investigation Finds Many Panhandlers Also Dealing Heroin

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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Investigator Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to sign an ordinance that will ban urban camping in Denver. It takes effect May 29 and has been strongly opposed by advocates for the homeless.

While a great many of those standing on corners with signs are certainly needy, 4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger found some are involved in dealing heroin.

The signs are often sincere for those who can find nowhere else to turn, but Sallinger put on a disguise, went undercover, and found they can also serve as signals for those who are selling black tar heroin or to get tips from those who do.

“How you doing? Hey know where I can get me any stuff?” Sallinger asked one panhandler on Speer Boulevard near the Cherry Creek Bike Path. Sallinger was driving a car at the time.

“What kind?” the man replied.

“Black tar?” Sallinger said.

“I’ve my cart. I can’t go with.” the man said.

“Let me come around,” Sallinger said.

Sallinger also approached another panhandler who told him he had “good stuff.”

Billy Woodward knows all about it. He’s a former heroin addict.

“I would always find heroin through the homeless. I would find anything I could get through the homeless; whether that be methamphetamine, cocaine,” Woodward said.

The Cherry Creek Bike Path is used by families, joggers and cyclists for recreation, but beneath one bridge Sallinger found a whole different world.

“A homeless guy told me you might have some black tar? You do?” Sallinger asked a man under the bridge.  He told Sallinger to go around to the other side of the creek.

Another conversation went as follows:

Sallinger: Are you homeless?

Man: Yeah, but I got a lot of dope.

Sallinger: You got lots of dope? Yeah? Well, black tar is what the guy up there told me you had.

Man: Yeah, I got black and white.

The man told Sallinger to follow him under the bridge, but Sallinger told him someone was coming and backed away. But the man came stumbling after him, producing the drugs hidden inside his mouth.

Sallinger: Let me see that.

Man: I have two blacks and I got two whites.

Sallinger: That’s black tar?

Man: This is black — these two black ones.

Sallinger: And how much?

Man: That one is $25 and the other is $15.

The black was heroin and the white was cocaine.

It makes some wonder about whether it’s a good idea to give to the homeless. John Parvensky is president of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

“It’s a personal decision whether you give or not. There may be some people who are in fact addicted and providing money to them just may be feeding their addiction,” Parvensky said.

Parvensky says what they really need is help.

Those dealing the heroin warned Sallinger that police are everywhere. In fact one even suspected Sallinger was a police officer.

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