Federal, state, and local authorities in Florida have arrested almost 500 drug trafficking suspects in a months-long joint enterprise known as “Operation Unified Front,” Fox 35 reported.
Since September 2022, law enforcement officials in Brevard County have worked in conjunction with the Florida State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to tackle the fentanyl crisis in Central Florida, Fox 35 News reported. With one of the highest overdose rates in the state, Brevard County officials are aggressively working to bring down those who deal in the deadly drug, the outlet stated.
“You better find another place to deal fentanyl,” Phil Archer, state attorney for Brevard and Seminole Counties warned, according to Fox 35 News.
“We’re being very aggressive with these fentanyl dealers, and if they lead to overdose deaths, we’re charging them with first degree murder. We’re probably leading the nation in these charges right now. It’s aggressive. There’s some criticism, but frankly I don’t care,” Archer added. (RELATED: A Fentanyl Supplier Got Life In Prison For A Deadly Overdose. He Could Have Killed Thousands)
Since Operation Unified Front began, law enforcement officials have arrested 477 suspects and recovered multiple drugs including: 55 pounds of cocaine, 2,400 pills, 289 pounds of marijuana, and 17 pounds of fentanyl — an amount Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey says would kill four million people, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Man Arrested In Connection To Michigan’s Largest Ever Fentanyl Bust, Police Say)
Though law enforcement officials have made great strides in tracking down drug dealers within the state, Ivey complained that weak bonds are allowing the suspects to go back to the streets. Once there, his deputies and other law enforcement officials inevitably deal with them again, risking their lives every time they do so, the outlet reported.
“Now, with the fentanyl epidemic, every time an undercover goes to make a hand-to-hand purchase, they’re not allowed to go in there with rubber gloves on and PPE equipment, so they’re risking their lives every time they make one of these deals,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement resident agent in charge in Brevard County Jason Kriegsman explained to the outlet.
Ivey confirmed Kriegsman’s analysis telling Fox 35 his department has had to use Narcan on its own deputies multiple times after they have come into contact with fentanyl.
As Operation Unified Front continues in Florida, law enforcement officials are working with legislators to toughen laws that will prevent repeat offenders from being quickly released back to the streets. Officials hope the approach they have taken in Florida can be used as a model for the rest of the country in order to save countless lives, the outlet reported.