Heroin Epidemic Drives Surge In Drugs Busts On DC Highways

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Relentless drug trafficking efforts from gangs and cartels are causing a spike in the number of drug busts by authorities on highways in the Washington, D.C., region.

Roadside drugs arrests rose from 1,752 in 2015 to 1,971 in 2016 in Maryland. Virginia experienced a similar increase between 2014 and 2015, with roadside drug busts rising from 3,163 to 3,354. Officers patrolling the highway corridors around Washington, D.C., are also reporting a noticeable surge in drug arrests, many relating to heroin or synthetic opioids. Officials believe increased trafficking efforts from criminal organizations are responsible for the rising busts, reports NBC Washington.

Police in the region said the drugs primarily flow from north to south on Interstate 95, where authorities are focusing their efforts. Drug traffickers are aware of this, however, and compensate by flooding the highways with even more drugs.

“The cartels, other major organizations, crime syndicates who are in the business of shipping drugs, they know this – so they ship a little bit more, knowing that it is going to be intercepted,” Neill Franklin, a former Maryland state police trooper and transit officer, told NBC4. “And what they want to arrive in New York or Miami or Baltimore city or Philadelphia, it arrives.”

Heroin trafficking is contributing to the uptick in arrests, but authorities say marijuana continues to be the primary drug they find. Police recently seized 347 pounds of marijuana being transported along I-95 in a box truck heading north. Narcotics trafficking is also thriving, however, and authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to thwart.

“The narcotics industry is a billion dollar industry,” Maryland State Police Corporal Brian Hirsch told NBC4. “They’re spending all day, every day, trying to deceive the police officers on the road.”

Officials in the region are attributing a large amount of the spike in trafficking to the heroin epidemic plaguing states in the area. Heroin-related deaths are rising at an alarming rate in Maryland, which is suffering the fifth highest rate of death from drug overdoses in the country. Heroin-related deaths tripled from 247 in 2011 to 748 in 2015, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin in the first half of 2016 doubled when compared to the same period in 2015 in the state.

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