Feds focusing on Triangle amid opioid epidemic

Heroin, file. (AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Triangle is getting extra federal attention in the growing opioid epidemic.

Raleigh will be home to one of six new DEA heroin enforcement teams, which will also focus on fighting fentanyl and other opioid abuse. The DEA said it selected the six cities after considering factors including the numbers of opioid-related deaths as well as the frequency and amounts of heroin and fentanyl seizures.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said some of his narcotics investigators recently heard rumblings about the possibility of additional DEA agents setting up shop in town, and he is happy to have them here.

“I really, really appreciate that because I know we’ve got some problems,” Harrison said.

“It’s sad, but unfortunately with the population growing like it is and … the way the roads are and the airport, we’re ideal (for drug trafficking), and the drug dealers know it, and they’re just coming in here like vultures and taking advantage of us.”

The other five cities receiving the DEA heroin enforcement teams include the major metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Long Island near New York City, as well as the smaller cities of Charleston, West Virginia, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, which is slightly more than an hour’s drive south of Boston.

A press release from the DEA also listed another factor in its decision involved identifying “where additional resources would make the greatest impact in addressing the ongoing threat.” The teams will work throughout the region surrounding the selected cities, and will include DEA special agents as well as local task force officers.

Sheriff Harrison said he received a request to provide a drug deputy, and he is trying to get a head start on things by preparing a formal request of the Wake County Commission to add funding for an additional experienced drug detective. The sheriff estimates a starting base salary in the high $40,000s and said he will try to negotiate with the DEA to cover some costs towards such things as a vehicle, fuel, and potentially overtime.

“DEA works well with us and that’s so important because they have some capabilities that we don’t have, and having that resource there to tie all of us together as a good team. If we can get the money to have enough officers, we’re going to stop some of the drugs,” Harrison said.

“Will we stop it all? No. But I think it starts a lot with prescription drugs. Everybody is seeing that now, from the president right on down. We’ve been seeing it a long time and thank God people are beginning to notice.”

The sheriff’s office has a prescription take-back box on site where people can drop off unused medication for proper disposal.

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