By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – In a scene that has come all too familiar in the Gila Valley, a Safford woman was taken to jail after stealing from her family and pawning the items for cash presumably to pay for a heroin habit.
Tawni Lee Taylor, 26, was arrested and booked into the Graham County Jail on June 8 regarding charges of theft and trafficking in stolen property.
According to a Safford Police report, on the evening of June 8 an officer was dispatched to Taylor’s mother’s residence regarding the theft of multiple items. Upon arrival, the mother said Taylor had stolen property from her and other relatives and pawned them at Kracked, a store in Downtown Safford. The mother said she had located the stolen items at the store and purchased them back. The items pawned included 64 vinyl records and two Playstation 4 games.
The mother said she believed Taylor had sold the stolen items to support her drug habit. Other family members said they saw Taylor loading up the records and that money has gone missing previously as well but they had never reported it.
An employee of Kracked positively identified Taylor as the person who pawned the items. Later, the owner of the store said Taylor had pawned the records and games in three separate trips between June 5 and June 8 and was paid a total of $62.50.
After being notified that Taylor had returned home, officers went back to the mother’s residence at about 10:36 p.m. and placed Taylor under arrest.
When asked about the incident, Taylor denied any wrongdoing and claimed all the property pawned was hers to do so.
During the booking process, Taylor allegedly admitted to being a heroin user and said she had smoked some heroin earlier in the day.
The nation has seen a rapid ascent of drug overdose deaths since 1995 with opiates being the main culprit. Heroin and other opiates have swept the nation, causing what the New York Times estimates as being the largest annual jump in overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. The research estimated between 59,000 to 65,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, which makes drug overdoses the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.
To give that number some perspective, a graph showed other peak death rates in recent history, with peak car crash deaths at about 55,000 in 1972, peak AIDS/HIV deaths at about 48,000 in 1995 and peak gun deaths at nearly 40,000 in 1993.
Safford has various organizations that are attempting to alleviate the drug problem, including the Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition, and has also been chosen by the national nonprofit organization Facing Addiction to be one of 15 cities to participate in its pilot community project aimed at public addiction reform.