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Schumer demands DEA send heroin enforcement team to NY

Spike in overdose deaths warrants action, senator says

June 19, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says New York’s heroin epidemic “proves we are in desperate need” of additional DEA resources. Eagle file photo by Bill Kotsatos

Approximately four fatal drug overdoses took place in New York City every day in 2016. That stark statistic was cited by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer as part of an argument he is waging to get the federal government to dispatch a specialized drug enforcement team to New York state. 

Schumer (D-New York) called on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to provide New York State with one of four special heroin enforcement groups that are being deployed to states across the country that are seeing rising rates of heroin abuse.

In a letter to Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, Schumer requested that the agency “include New York as a top priority.”

Schumer said the steady uptick of heroin busts, overdoses and heavy local drug enforcement costs in New York City and Long Island prove that additional federal resources are needed.

New York’s senior senator cited two recent cases in Brooklyn.

In May, a suspected Brooklyn ringleader was arrested after allegedly circulating approximately 2 million glassines of heroin. Back in March, 34 people in Brooklyn were charged with distributing drugs that were sold throughout the five boroughs. More than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl, with a total street value of $22 million, were seized in the bust.‎ 

Schumer secured $12.5 million in federal funding for DEA in fiscal year 2017 for the creation of four new enforcement groups specifically dedicated to combating heroin trafficking. The new DEA enforcement groups will be dispatched to states that report heroin as the highest drug threat.

New York should get one of those groups, Schumer said.

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“Recent increases in drug busts, overdoses and emergency calls across New York City and Long Island all tied to heroin tell the story of an epidemic that needs more attention and action by the feds to foil,” he said in a statement.  

The numbers speak for themselves, according to Schumer, who cited alarming statistics from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to bolster his case. In 2016, there were 1,374 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the city, compared to 937 in 2015. More than eight in 10 overdose deaths involved an opioid. 

The threat posed by heroin abuse nationwide has steadily increased since 2007, according to DEA. In 2014, 10,574 people in the U.S. died from heroin-related overdoses, and between 2007 and 2014, the number of heroin-related deaths increased 341 percent. 

Since 2006, New York state’s heroin overdose death rate has equaled or exceeded the national rate, Schumer said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control attributed 1,058 deaths to heroin in 2015, an increase of nearly 29 percent from the previous year.

The heavy costs required to combat the epidemic has impacted local law enforcement in their efforts to head off the flow of drugs, Schumer said. 

A special heroin enforcement team in New York would allow DEA to leverage federal investments already in use, like Drug Intelligence Officers, and bolster existing efforts to combat drug trafficking.

“New York’s rampant heroin epidemic proves we are in desperate need of one of the four special heroin enforcement teams being launched throughout the country. With more than 1,000 deaths related to heroin overdoses in 2016 alone, it’s time for the DEA to bring its A-team to New York so that we can finally zero in on this epidemic and stop the scourge in its tracks,” Schumer said.

 

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