Law enforcement concerned about rise in supply of fentanyl laced pills smuggled in by Mexican cartels

Law enforcement officials say the massive supply of fentanyl-laced pills pouring into our region is at a crisis level. 

In 2018, Seattle Police seized around 200 fentanyl-laced pills. So far this year, they've seized around 650,000.

Last year, more than 500 people in King County overdosed. So far this year, there are more than 700 people who have died from an overdose, nearly half of that from fentanyl.  

"This is not a what you grew up with, [where] somebody ended up getting a bag of marijuana that they brought to the high school. This is a multi-billion dollar industry set up by these drug cartels," said Robert Hammer with US Dept. of Homeland Security.

Officials say Mexican drug cartels are primarily smuggling and saturating the Pacific Northwest with fentanyl-laced pills.

"One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill half a million people, according to the DEA," Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said.

In one recent operation, authorities seized around 50,000 pills compactly hidden in a wheel well of a vehicle.

Seattle Police, DEA and Homeland Security worked together to arrest four suspected narcotics dealers and confiscated a cache of guns. 

"Your local pill dealer is not a local pill dealer, he is an armed drug trafficker and that is the evolution that is taking place," Hammer said.

RELATED: Port Orchard mom charged in fentanyl death of 11-year-old daughter dies in custody

Oftentimes, fentanyl pills come in a blue form, but the scariest thing is that they can be disguised as any pill. They are cheaper to make but give users more of a high than even heroin and meth.

"I have two kids in high school. I am in fear when they go out to parties," Hammer said.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz says it’s a life-and-death battle, and all it takes sometimes is just one pill.

"It’s Russian roulette that’s what it is," said Colleen Gregoire. She lost her 20-year-old son, Bobby Ausbun, to fentanyl.  "I think a lot of people don’t think it will happen to them until it happens to them." 

Gregoire said her son bought some pills after connecting with someone on Snapchat. He thought they were Percocets, but they were laced with fentanyl. He overdosed and died in his sleep.

"It’s being laced in marijuana, it’s gone crazy. Parents everywhere have to be aware. It’s a grain of salt that can kill you," Gregoire said.

 Diaz says it is a challenge working narcotics cases with staff shortages, that’s why it’s been important to collaborate with the other agencies.

 Although the latest arrest and busts are a win, law enforcement officials admit it does not even scratch the surface. 

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