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Fighting Fentanyl: How OCSD is fighting the opioid crisis

Across the nation, the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities and claim new victims every day, including here in Orange County.

The most dramatic change law enforcement has seen in this recent epidemic has been the introduction of fentanyl – a highly potent synthetic opioid that is strong enough to cause an overdose with as little as 2 milligrams.

Since January, OCSD narcotics teams have intercepted 12.5 kilograms of this deadly drug and arrested seven people attempting to sell and transport it. That amount is enough for roughly 6 million people – nearly twice the county’s population -- to fatally overdose.

Fentanyl does not discern whether the user is a first-timer or a long-time abuser.  It is impossible for an individual to know their limit with this drug, and there is no such thing as experimenting because one use could be enough to prompt the body to shut down.  

Fentanyl is that dangerous, and the numbers prove it.

According to the Orange County Crime Lab, from 2015 to 2016, the county saw a 100 percent increase in deaths attributed to fentanyl. Los Angeles County saw a 136 percent increase for that same time period.

In 2010, fentanyl was found in postmortem testing in 23 deaths. In 2017, that number jumped to 67 deaths, which could climb higher once all pending 2017 cases are cleared.  

For DUIDs: There were seven cases with fentanyl detected in 2016, but last year that number jumped to 44 cases.

Labeling this sharp increase in the use of opioids, specifically fentanyl, a crisis is not an overstatement.

The 12.5 kilograms seized by OCSD so far this year is from one division – albeit a very active one -- of a department that employs diverse programs to intercept illegal drugs and hold those trafficking them accountable.

In addition to narcotics teams and the Highway Interdiction Team, those responsible for the 12.5 kilograms seized, Operation Stonegarden tackles similar smuggling attempts on the water and the Regional Narcotics Suppression Program (RNSP) focuses on intervening in drug import attempts in a variety of ways, including by using air surveillance. Personnel working the airport and Orange County transit systems focus on catching any attempts to move narcotics in our county, while patrol deputies also make this effort a routine part of their shift.    

On the analysis side, the Orange County Crime Lab helps put the problem into context so law enforcement better understands the scope of the issue and can better deploy resources.

While the Sheriff’s Department actively and aggressively pursues those bringing fentanyl and other illegal drugs into the county, drug education in our community continues to be a critical prevention component.

The Sheriff’s Department is proud to partner with local schools through the work of Community Programs, Drug Liaison Officers, School Resource Officers and the Pepperdine Resource, Youth Diversion and Education (PRYDE) program. These programs are vital to educating youth and teens about the dangers of drugs, but these lessons must extend beyond the school campus.

Parents and community members can help by learning more about the dangers of fentanyl, and other opioids, and talking with children and teens about it. Start these talks early and have them often. Find valuable resources by visiting drugfree.org.