Law enforcement agencies across the country have made several record-setting fentanyl drug busts this year, indicating that police are making a concerted effort to tackle the opioid crisis head-on in their communities.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered,” Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram said on the DEA’s Fentanyl Awareness Day on August 21. “Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison. We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day.”
From coast to coast, agencies of all sizes have documented record-high fentanyl busts in one of the deadliest years since the opioid crisis began in the late 1990s.
Last month, the Roberts County, South Dakota, Sheriff’s Office announced the largest drug bust ever recorded in the state after deputies seized 16 pounds of fentanyl and fentanyl-laced pills.
“As historic as this seizure is, it is also a reminder our job as law enforcement is needed now more than ever for the safety of our communities, our citizens, and the incredible state of South Dakota,” Roberts County Sheriff Tyler Appel said on Facebook.
The seizure, which included 3 pounds of fentanyl and 53,000 counterfeit pills laced with the deadly drug, was valued at $2 million.
In Oregon, the Eugene Police Department seized a massive amount of fentanyl during a welfare check in October.
Officers initially responded to calls of a man — later identified as 42-year-old Andre Lavell Johnson — unconscious in his car at a stop light. When police arrived, Johnson refused police commands and attempted to start his car.
Officers eventually pulled Johnson from the vehicle after seeing a gun on the floor of the car. A search of the car revealed fentanyl pills and stolen cash.
A search warrant was later executed for Johnson’s vehicles and home, during which investigators discovered roughly 18 pounds of suspected fentanyl, two guns and over $47,000 in cash.
Johnson was ultimately charged with three felonies.
In another historic seizure this year, drug trafficker 27-year-old David Maldonado was busted by the Colorado State Patrol while transporting 114 pounds of fentanyl.
Authorities say Maldonado later made a deal with the DEA to lead them to other drug traffickers located in the area of South Bend, Indiana. However, Maldonado fled from police at this time and removed the tracker from his vehicle. He is now considered a fugitive.
“DEA was working with us, and they made a deal with the driver,” a spokesperson for the Colorado State Patrol said.” “He ran on them after they worked the case, and that was their debacle.”
The drug bust was the largest ever to occur on a U.S. highway. Denver DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser said that 114 pounds of fentanyl recovered was enough to kill 25 million people.
In Minnesota, the Bloomington Police Department also recorded its largest-ever fentanyl bust in August after arresting 36-year-old Marcus Trice at a local hotel. Police discovered 24 pounds of fentanyl pills in the case.
“This is the largest seizure of fentanyl ever for Bloomington [police] and one of the largest seizures recorded for the state,” the department said at the time.
In addition, the St. Louis division of the DEA announced an all-time high of 671 pounds of fentanyl seized this year — representing an 800% increase since 2018.
The division also secured 203 pounds of methamphetamine and 57 pounds of heroin in addition to fentanyl over the course of the year.
“Looking at this staggering increase in seizures, there is no question that DEA and its local, state and federal partners have stepped up our efforts to stop fentanyl from reaching our communities,” Special Agent in Charge Michael A. Davis said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the drugs pouring into the Midwest in multiple forms is also a sign that drug trafficking organizations will go to any length to profit from the misery of our citizens. We’ll continue to take down these criminal networks and put out the message that what they’re selling kills.”
In New York, the NYPD made history twice in the span of two months after a woman was arrested carrying 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills in a Lego box. The arrest occurred in September. A month later, this record was dwarfed when police confiscated 300,000 rainbow fentanyl pills — worth $9 million in street value — from a Bronx apartment on October 7.
Within the 12-month period ending in March of this year, the U.S. recorded 109,000 deaths due to synthetic opioids (mostly fentanyl), and officials believe this number will likely continue to rise.