New York Heroin Market Growing to Meet Demand

By Victoria Kim 05/22/14

More than 35 percent of the heroin seized in the United States comes from New York, thanks to easy access and growing demand on the East Coast.

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On Monday, authorities announced the arrest of two suspected high-level drug traffickers based in the Bronx. Authorities seized 53 pounds of heroin, assault rifles, $85,000 in cash, and about 20 pounds of cocaine. This is just the latest glimpse into the burgeoning heroin market in New York City, where the flow of heroin has peaked in more than two decades, fueled by a growing demand for the drug on the East Coast.

Roughly 35 percent of heroin seized nationwide since October by the Drug Enforcement Administration was confiscated by agents in New York State. Compare this to years past, when the state accounted for about one-fifth of heroin seizures nationwide. “It’s cheap, it’s potent and there’s a user demand here right now and they’re flooding the market,” said James J. Hunt, head of the DEA’s New York office. “In my time, we’ve never seen the amount of large heroin seizures like this.”

More than 288 pounds of heroin were seized in the city in the first four months of 2014, according to the office of special narcotics prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. Brennan’s office is focused on large-scale operations, so this figure does not account for everyday street-level trafficking in the city. The amount of heroin seized in investigations involving Brennan’s office already surpassed last year, and every year since 1991.

Heroin use is on the rise nationwide, especially among young middle-class users from Maine to Staten Island. Heroin suppliers have flocked to New York because it is a hub with a thriving local market and easy access to other places along the East Coast. “This is highly organized, high volume, and it’s being moved much more efficiently and effectively to reach out to a broader user base,” Brennan said.

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