Feds in Connecticut Aim to Trace Drug Supply, Bust Dealers

By Zachary Siegel 04/15/16

In 2015, over 400 people died from heroin-related causes in Connecticut, and in 107 of those deaths, fentanyl was present.

Feds in Connecticut Aim to Trace Drug Supply, Bust Dealers
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Federal law enforcement authorities in Connecticut said Wednesday that each heroin overdose called in will be treated as a crime scene, per new protocols which aim to trace drugs, especially heroin and fentanyl, back to the suppliers. 

According to authorities, a collaboration was formed between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Haven Tactical Diversion Squad and state and local police, as well as a team of prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office. The Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force is funding the cooperative effort, according to the Hartford Courant

During the Wednesday press conference, U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly said the team is currently investigating 20 heroin and opioid-related deaths throughout Connecticut. Since January, four arrests have been made—the most recent in March, when a man was arrested for the non-fatal overdose of a 25-year-old woman. The details of the case were not divulged. 

"We are combating a tragic opioid epidemic that is plaguing Connecticut and much of the country," said Daly. "This initiative will enable law enforcement to quickly determine if a highly toxic drug is on the street and take steps to identify the source of the drug in order to keep it out of the hands of vulnerable users."

During 2015, 415 people in Connecticut died from heroin and/or opioid poisoning, and in 107 of those deaths, the deadly drug fentanyl was present. In 2014, those numbers were 327 and 37, respectively. 

A critical component of their new tactic is to "perform time-sensitive investigative techniques and preserve all evidence at the scene of an overdose death," according to authorities. In addition, "police also are asked to contact DEA at the early stages of an investigation, and ensure that an autopsy of the decedent is performed and the composition of the drugs involved" is determined. 

"This has created a protocol to treat all ODs as crime scenes to try and trace the source of the narcotics and who supplied them," said Deputy Chief State's Attorney Leonard C. Boyle. "If we can establish that the dealer knew the heroin is tainted they can be charged with manslaughter."

This expansion in criminal justice efforts comes right before the United Nations General Assembly is to meet for a special session on international drug policy next week, that will address a range of issues including drug use, addiction and overdose as issues that fall under public health, not criminal justice. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.