It’s a problem that keeps growing. The potentially deadly grasp of fentanyl is now reaching all corners of our country.
According to new numbers ABC15 received from the Drug Enforcement Administration, agents seized 59.6 million fentanyl pills and more than 13,000 pounds of fentanyl powder in 2022. In 2023, agents have already seized more than 62.4 million fentanyl pills and 9,700 pounds of fentanyl powder.
So how do the numbers stack up locally? We went back inside the Phoenix Police Department crime lab to find out.
Inside several coolers, Phoenix police officers made a potentially deadly discovery – hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills were taken off the streets as part of Operation Summer Shield back in June.
“It is a major issue,” explains Phoenix Police Officer Kenneth Silvia, who was part of that bust in which Silvia and his fellow officers in the Desert Horizon Precinct took more than 500,000 fentanyl pills off the streets.
“Is that alarming for you to go to one of these scenes and seize that many fentanyl pills at one time?” ABC15’s Nick Ciletti asked Officer Silvia.
“Yes, because even seeing fentanyl pills on a regular basis, you wonder how far was this particular quantity going to reach?” Officer Silvia said. “How many states would this go to? How many people would have overdosed on this batch? Would any kids have gotten ahold of this?”
And the problem is only getting worse across the country – and right here in our own backyard.
According to Phoenix Police, in the Desert Horizon precinct alone, which covers the northern part of the city, officers seized roughly 1.4 million fentanyl pills in 2022 – but had already seized 1.9 million fentanyl pills by Aug. 31 of this year.
“It’s very concerning to me,” explains Officer Silvia. “There are people from all walks of life, all ethnic backgrounds, that are using fentanyl pills and it’s because of its abundance and availability. I think that’s the biggest thing that people don’t understand – the amount of fentanyl that’s out there.”
Especially in Arizona.
Customs and Border Protection officials tell ABC15 the amount of fentanyl flowing across our southern border with Mexico into our state continues to be a concern — and it’s not just border communities.
Officer Silvia says he believes Phoenix is now a hub for fentanyl trafficking.
“It’s a nationwide problem that starts in Phoenix and goes out,” he says. “Because they’re so small, you can package 100,000 pills pretty easily in a small backpack and make a lot of money.”
The price of fentanyl has also decreased; Officer Silvia says it’s common to find it for $1 per pill or even cheaper in bulk.