Texas DEA Uses Billboards to Target Heroin Dealers and Drug Traffickers

By John Lavitt 12/31/14

With heroin abuse on the rise, DEA agents are taking to billboards to generate information and tips about suppliers and distribution.


As the plague of heroin abuse and addiction spreads across the country, local divisions of the Drug Enforcement Administration are employing new high visibility tactics. In Texas and Oklahoma, local divisions of the DEA are using billboard space to reach out to the community. The purpose of the billboards is to generate information, anonymous tips if necessary, to crack down on drug dealers. 

Daniel Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Dallas Field Division, explained the shift in policy:

"Our focus is not necessarily on the user. We want them to get help, but we want their information, so that we can identify their sources of supply, their distributors that are selling this poison to our communities…Every community is impacted by heroin. It's psychologically addicting, it's psychologically dependent, and unfortunately, when heroin is abused, it's a long road to recovery."

With the introduction of cheese heroin in 2005, North Texas gained national attention. "Cheese" is a heroin-based recreational drug that gained front-page coverage after a string of deaths among adolescents in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, between 2005 and 2007. Highly addictive, cheese heroin is a blend of black tar Mexican heroin and over-the-counter cold medications like Tylenol PM or Nyquil. Costing only a couple of dollars a hit, children as young as nine-years old have become hooked on the cheese. When children are being rushed to hospital emergency rooms after suffering heroin withdrawal symptoms, the drug problem clearly is out-of-control.

Seen across North Texas on a rotating basis, the billboards urge community members and users to anonymously report heroin and illegal prescription drug activity. Such activity can be reported by email, text or an anonymous phone call. Given the number of deaths and the dangers involved, Salter highlighted the urgency, "It's a message that needs to get out to the parents, and quite frankly the educators and the politicians, and everybody that will listen, that this is something we can't take lightly.” 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.