As increased heroin use within the United States comes into sharper view, New York City has emerged as one of the country’s largest distribution hubs, with more of the drug passing through it than at any time in the last 23 years.
According to a report by the New York Times, law enforcement has already confiscated 217 pounds of heroin throughout New York City in 2014, up sharply from 139 pounds over the same time frame last year.
Considering the fact that 786 pounds total were seized in 2013 – the largest number in about five years – police are already on track to blow past last year’s figures. Since October, 35 percent of all the heroin collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration across the US has been in New York state.
On Staten Island, where the city’s overdose rates are the highest, the amount of heroin removed off the street has jumped 61 percent compared to last year.
“It’s cheap, it’s potent and there’s a user demand here right now and they’re flooding the market,” the DEA’s James J. Hunt said to the Times. “In my time, we’ve never seen the amount of large heroin seizures like this.”
As detectives and special narcotics officers investigate the situation, they’ve also begun discovering sophisticated distribution networks that stretch all the way back to Mexico. With a population of more than 8 million people, New York City offers a large potential pool of buyers, but it also allows for convenient transportation to other markets in the Northeast.
“We’re kind of the head of the Hydra,” special narcotics prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan told the Times. “This is highly organized, high volume, and it’s being moved much more efficiently and effectively to reach out to a broader user base.”
These revelations came just one day after federal agents and New York Police Department officers arrested what they believe to be two major suppliers who were distributing heroin out of New York and into nearby states such as Connecticut. Approximately 53 pounds of heroin worth $11 million were confiscated, as well as $85,000 in cash, assault rifles, and 20 pounds of cocaine – the biggest NYC drug bust this year.
“These seizures and arrests demonstrate that NYC is ground zero of heroin distribution networks supplying the Northeast, as well as being the prime market Mexican drug traffickers are using to earn profit from the sale of poison,” DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said to NBC New York.
Heroin use in the US has become an important story ever since the lethal overdose of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s thrust the drug back into the spotlight. Soon after his death, reports of an extremely lethal batch of heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl began surfacing, and the drug was blamed for dozens of deaths across multiple states on the East Coast.
As RT reported earlier this year, the spike in abuse has become a big enough problem that Attorney General Eric Holder called it an “urgent public health crisis,” pledging to direct the Justice Department to combat overdose and to establish public health initiatives in order to help those in need.