(The Center Square)
Arizona state troopers last week seized enough fentanyl to kill nearly 800,000 people. The fentanyl was smuggled in a pickup truck and made about 150 miles north of the border, authorities said.
On February 16 Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers responded to reports of a single-vehicle collision on I-10 in Sacaton. Located south of Phoenix, it is a straight shot north along the I-19 and I-10 highways, 146 miles from Nogales, Mexico.
The driver of a 1989 Ford pickup truck lost control of the vehicle, the truck overturned and the driver was ejected, suffering life-threatening injuries, Arizona DPS said. As emergency responders transported the driver to the hospital, troopers investigated and discovered several pill packages hidden throughout the truck.
Their investigation led to the seizure of approximately 286 pounds — about 1.3 million suspected fentanyl pills, with an estimated street value of $5.1 million.
Two milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose. According to a public safety alert issued by the US Drug Enforcement Administration last November, six out of every 10 pills tested contain a lethal dose.
AZ DPS cites an old statistic of four out of every ten pills, indicating that a seizure is enough fentanyl to kill half a million people. But using updated DEA figures, the amount of pills seized, 1,297,000 pills, is enough to kill 778,200 people. Enough lethal doses smuggled in one vehicle to kill the entire population of every town and city in Arizona except Phoenix.
“Unfortunately, incidents like this are all too common for law enforcement agencies in Arizona and across the country,” said AZ DPS, adding that its “troopers continue to work hard every day to combat the illegal trafficking and distribution of drugs, such as fentanyl, undoubtedly saving many lives in the process.”
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A man with 286 pounds of fentanyl about 150 miles from Mexico suggests that not all fentanyl being smuggled into the US is intercepted at the border. Law enforcement officials told Center Square that Customs and Border Protection agents are doing their best to seize record amounts at ports of entry, but it’s unknown how much more is coming in between the ports of entry that are not intercepted and where the contraband is. to the US
Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief John Modlin testified earlier this month before the US House Oversight and Accountability Committee that Border Patrol agents seized more than 700 pounds of fentanyl in 2022, half of it in the field, meaning not at ports of entry.
“To give you an idea of the lethality of fentanyl, it’s enough to kill everyone in Arizona 21 times, or basically half the population of the United States,” he said. Agents seized 52% at the port of entry and the rest “after being backpacked at the border,” he said.
Law enforcement officials have explained that fentanyl precursors are produced in China and shipped to Mexican ports, where Mexican cartels manufacture them into counterfeit prescription pills and lace other drugs with fentanyl.
Mexican cartels operate a multibillion-dollar business in people and drug smuggling, Job Dickinson, president of the Border Security Alliance, told The Center Square. “They have developed a multifaceted approach to how they smuggle illegal drugs into this country. They don’t use one route like ports of entry. They use established smuggling routes and even remote parts of the border to get more drugs.
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A former law enforcement officer serving in southern Arizona, Dickinson has seen firsthand the effects of fentanyl on communities and local law enforcement. “If you want to know if the cartels are succeeding, take a look around the streets of your city,” he said. “Open-air drug use has increased and overdose deaths across this nation continue to rise because fentanyl is being delivered to our communities at record rates.”
“Local law-enforcement seizures away from the border have skyrocketed,” he said, pointing to the AZ DPS’s seizure in Sacaton. “More than one million pills were found by DPS officials that did not come through the entrance. In Arizona, the biggest fentanyl seizures are not just happening in our southern counties along the border but they are happening in our northern counties as cartels move this product interstate and try to take it across America.
To counter the cartels’ sophisticated criminal network, he said, “we need a secure border using deterrence and technology. We need high-tech ports of entry to vet people and check them when they encounter them. We also need Border Patrol agents, patrolling the smuggling routes used by the cartels. Our last Defense should be local law enforcement protecting our communities.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.