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COVID-19 ‘exacerbated’ opioid crisis in NY: DEA official

COVID-19 'exacerbated' opioid crisis in NY: DEA official

The COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated the opioid crisis” in New York, the Empire State’s drug czar told The Post Tuesday.

The New York Division of the US Drug Enforcement Administration seized a staggering amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl in 2020 – a year marred by the global COVID-19 crisis, the agency said.

There was a 214 percent surge in the amount of methamphetamine seized in New York from 244 kilograms in 2019 to 767 kilograms in 2020, while there was a 59 percent jump in fentanyl seized from 254 kilograms in 2019 to 404 kilograms in 2020, according to the DEA.

In the last year, the DEA New York Division also confiscated nearly $170 million of drug proceeds and assets, and over $603 million dollars’ worth of illicit drugs.

“Those are big numbers and it shows there is a strong demand for drugs,” Ray Donovan, the special agent in charge of the New York DEA, said in an interview Tuesday.

Donovan explained that the coronavirus pandemic has “forced people into isolation and social distancing.”

“That has prevented people seeking help through clinics, treatment, Narcan and support from friends. It was a perfect storm,” said Donovan, adding, “The methamphetamine increase is a direct result of COVID.”

According to Donovan, about 90 percent of all the illicit drugs in the United States come from Mexico and the majority of them then go through major transportation hubs like New York.

DEA intelligence and investigations learned that Mexican cartels’ ability to transport their drugs across the border was interrupted by increased security amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the cartels adapted.

Trafficking organizations employed mail services to send smaller and more frequent loads of the highly potent drugs to criminal networks in New York, the agency said.

“In the beginning [of the pandemic] Mexico stockpiled the drug because of shipping problems,” Donovan said. “Then during the summer and fall, they flooded the New York area as border restrictions lightened up.”

“Drug dealers were using mail services to ship the drugs — some in freight deliveries,” said Donovan, noting that 5,000 pounds of marijuana was also seized.

Officials say the Mexican cartels took advantage of their ability to process fentanyl into pill forms “for easier transport, concealment, and ultimate user popularity.”

“Dealers are putting it [fentanyl] into pills and it is cheap to make,” Donovan explained. “Coke [cocaine], heroin, meth are all being laced with fentanyl.”

DEA New York investigations revealed that traffickers packed methamphetamine within ordinary products like baby wipe containers to hide it when shipping via parcel delivery. 

Additionally, there was a 137 percent uptick of guns seized as part of New York DEA’s investigations from 2019 to 2020.

“Now, more than ever, is the time for collaborative law enforcement efforts to target drug trafficking networks and decrease drug-related violence in our cities,” Donovan said in a statement.

Federal data shows there was an estimated 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the US from May 2019 to May 2020 “justifying a need to alert New Yorkers that drug overdose deaths lurk behind the public health crisis caused by COVID-19,” Donovan added.

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James Thompson

James Thompson has worked in various news organizations and now aims to make Report Door one of the best and fastest growing news websites in the U.S. He contributes to the US and World sections.

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