A new crisis currently exists is the law enforcement community! It is the current opioid crisis in America which has proven to be one of the most challenging and alarming issues the law enforcement community has ever faced. However, the most distressing aspect of this crisis stems from the country’s lack of focus on the true culprit: smuggled synthetic opioids. These potent chemicals are harmful to both civilians and law enforcement alike, and it’s imperative that our legislators focus on strengthening our borders to halt the influx of illegal smuggling and keep our citizens and police officers safe. This killer is silent, it is stealth, and exits only to hurt and addict this who take it, but for a cop on a drug raid one small breath count mean death.

Mexican drug cartels, namely the Sinaloa Cartel once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, are smuggling vast quantities of counterfeit prescription pills across our borders– escalating the addiction crisis. The most commonly smuggled pills are “Mexican Oxy” which are stamped to look like legitimate prescription drugs but are in actuality filled with heroin and/or fentanyl.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports, fentanyl can be 50 times as potent as heroin where even the smallest amount–about 2 milligrams, or about 4 grains of salt–is lethal. Since 2015, deaths from fentanyl have risen from 3,000 to over 20,000. This is an aggressive 540% increase over a 3-year timespan. Keep in mind that this extremely deadly product is crossing into our country through a wire fence, that some call our border security.

Without proper borders our citizens will continue to suffer, and the epidemic will likely grow and al Law Enforcement Officers fro ICE, to the Cop on the street will continue to be in jeopardy.

From October 2016 to August 2017, about 950 pounds of fentanylwere seized nationwide–more than half of it (550 pounds)was seized at the San Diego and Tucson Field Offices on the Mexico border. These numbers will only climb unless budgets are cushioned to support increased law enforcement and healthcare services that focus on tackling synthetic opioid addiction and overdoses. In Maricopa County, Arizona, there were 32 overdose fatalitiesin just 18 months. These stemmed from fake Oxy pills made in Mexico, containing fentanyl. But it’s important to note that our lack of border security that encourages smuggling activity reaches beyond the Southwest and affects those trying to keep communities safe.

In seaboard states like Rhode IslandPennsylvania and Massachusetts, fentanyl is now involved in over half of all overdose fatalities. Law enforcement services are ramping up overtime in order to better serve their suffering communities. But these efforts have taken a toll on the public safety community too. In September 2016, 11 Connecticut police officerswere rushed to the hospital after accidentally breathing in powdered fentanyl that had been swept in the air during a drug bust. And in May 2017, an Ohio police officer overdosedfrom merely brushing fentanyl residue off his uniform, having been involved in a drug bust earlier in the day.

These incidents occurred while upholding their professional responsibilities and emphasizes that fentanyl is changing the law enforcement game. Officers are being outspent and outmanned by these sophisticated, billion-dollar criminal enterprises. In order to address the “national health emergency” that is the opioid crisis, we must shut down the bourgeoning criminal drug pipelines from Mexico and start seriously supporting law enforcement.

Border security remains a driving point of conversation in the news, however our government continues to stall. This growing delay offers bad actors time to profit off our vulnerability. Just last year, a 19-year-old was stopped at the border wearing underwear lined with 1,200 fentanyl pills incorrectly marked as oxycodone. More recently, a reportfrom Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill shows that fentanyl seizures by Border Patrol agents with US Customs and Border Protection increased by 72 percent in 2017. Yet, illicit narcotics continue to penetrate our borders and infiltrate into our communities–burdening all levels of health and safety services. We need legislative solutions and we need them quickly.

The Trump Administration and Congress need to continue focusing on strengthening our borders, hopefully creating a barrier to future smuggling endeavors. The American people deserve a country that puts their health and safety first, and that includes fighting back against those who look to penetrate our borders with malintent.

“JamesFotis is the President and Founder of the National Center for Police Defense, Inc. as well as the former Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America where he served for 23 years.”

 

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