ON THE FRONTLINES

As the City ramps up the fight against cartel crime and heroin crossing the southern borders, the states leading D.E.A agent takes us inside the battle against this deadly drug.

For more information on substance abuse resources, click here. 

Aired on October 17 & December 27, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE HEROIN EPIDEMIC AND ITS IMPACT ON THE STATE OF NEW YORK IS AT ITS WORST IN YEARS.

THAT'S THE MESSAGE FROM THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, THOSE WHO ARE IN CHARGE OF LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST THIS CRISIS.

WITH CHEAP AND POWERFUL DOSES ACCESSIBLE, THE NUMBER OF DEADLY DOSES ARE RISING SIGNIFICANTLY ACROSS ALL BOROUGHS.

NEARLY A THIRD OF ALL OF THE HEROIN SMUGGLED IN COMES THROUGH NEW YORK BORDERS AND SOME 50,000 AMERICANS DIED FROM OVERDOSES EVERY YEAR.

WE WANT TO WELCOME THE MAN IN CHARGE OF STEMMING THE FLOW OF DRUGS INTO THE REGION, PROVIDING CRITICAL ASSISTANCE TO THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ADDICTED.

HE IS JAMES HUNT.

HE IS THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION'S AGENT IN CHARGE FOR THE STATE OF NEW YORK.

JIM, NICE TO HAVE YOU WITH US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS BUSINESS FOR SOME 30 YEARS HERE.

DESCRIBE FOR US, IF YOU WOULD, THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM NOW.

THE HEROIN PROBLEM IN NEW YORK AND FOR THAT MATTER THE UNITED STATES IS AS BAD AS IT HAS EVER BEEN.

NEW YORK TRADITIONALLY HAS BEEN THE HEROIN HUB OF THE UNITED STATES, BUT IT IS AS BAD HERE AS IT HAS EVER BEEN.

GOING BACK AS RECENT AS TEN YEARS AGO, IF WE SEIZED 100 KILOS OF HEROIN A YEAR IN NEW YORK, OUR OFFICE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD YEAR.

LAST YEAR WE SEIZED 1,000.

I KNOW YOU TALKED BEFORE ABOUT THE NOTION OF BOTH THE SUPPLY, THE EASE OF GETTING IT AND THE QUALITY OF THE HEROIN AS CONTRIBUTING TO THIS EXPLOSION OF HEROIN USE.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

THE QUALITY IS VERY GOOD.

IT IS STRONG.

BACK IN THE MID '70s, EARLY '80s, ADDICTS WERE USING LIKE 5%, 6%, 10% HEROIN ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK.

NOW WE ARE SEEING 30%, 40%, 50%. SO ADDICTS USING PRODUCT NOW THAT IS FIVE, TEN TIMES AS STRONG AS WHAT THEY USED YEARS AGO, AND IT IS CHEAP.

WHY SO CHEAP?

BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE TO BRING IT AS FAR.

WHEREAS, THE MAFIA THEY HAD MOBS IN TURKEY AND SICILY, THEY HAD TO PAY A LOT OF PEOPLE TO GET IT TO THE UNITED STATES.

THE BORDER WITH MEXICO IS JUST A COUPLE OF THOUSAND MILES.

THERE ARE PLACES YOU CAN JUST WALK OVER HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, SO IT MADE IT MUCH EASIER FOR THEM TO DO IT.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THIS, IT IS ALMOST AS IF YOU AND I ARE TALKING ABOUT SOME CORPORATION SOME PLACE AND A PRODUCT THAT THEY'RE PRODUCING, YOU KNOW, CONSUMER GOOD.

IT SEEMS LIKE THEY'RE FOLLOWING THE SAME APPROACH THAT CORPORATIONS DO.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THEIR PRODUCT IS THIS DESTRUCTIVE DRUG THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THEY'VE GOTTEN VERY PROFESSIONAL ABOUT THIS.

ABSOLUTELY.

THE CARTEL WHICH CONTROLS THE MAJORITY OF THE HEROIN COMING INTO THE UNITED STATES, PROBABLY 70% TO 80%, GUZMAN'S ORGANIZATION, LET'S SAY A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY.

I MEAN PLANES, THOUSANDS OF TRUCKS, TRACTOR TRAILERS, WAREHOUSES, BOATS.

IT IS RUN JUST LIKE A COMPANY.

LIKE A CORPORATION.

AND THEY HAD A BUSINESS MODEL, AND THE MODEL IS TO FLOOD THE STREETS WITH HEROIN, MAKE IT PLENTIFUL, MAKE IT CHEAP, AND YOU HAVE MORE PEOPLE ADDICTED.

JUST LIKE A BAR, YOU GIVE A FEW DRINKS.

SAME MARKETING.

SAME MARKETING.

WE WERE TALKING ABOUT IT BEFORE WHEN I WAS A PROSECUTOR AND YOU WERE GETTING STARTED IN THE BUSINESS.

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT HEROIN, YOU TALK ABOUT HARD-CORE INNER CITY ADIKTS, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE SEEING NOW, IS IT?

NO, YEARS AGO IT WAS CONSIDERED AN INNER CITY DRUG, ASSOCIATED WITH POOR PEOPLE.

NOT THE SAME ANYMORE.

THE EXPLOSION TEN, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, OXYCODONE, PERCOCET, ALL OF THE NAMES OF OPIATES DOCTORS PRESCRIBED, YOUNG PEOPLE STARTED PLAYING WITH THESE LIKE THEY EXPERIMENT WITH ALCOHOL, BEER AND WINE.

SO THEY DEVELOPED HABITS.

LAW ENFORCEMENT CRACKED DOWN ON A LOT OF THESE DOCTORS, AND IT BECAME HARDER TO GET PILLS.

MEXICANS KNEW THIS, AND THEY STARTED FLOODING THE MARKET.

ALL OF THESE YOUNG KIDS -- AND I KNOW SOME OF THEM WHO I HAD TALKS WITH, PILL ADDICTS, AND I TOLD THEM, YOU'RE GOING TO END UP WITH A NEEDLE IN YOUR ARM AND THEY SWORE IT WOULDN'T HAPPEN.

EVERY ONE ENDED UP WITH A NEEDLE IN THEIR ARM.

WHAT DO YOU AS LAW ENFORCEMENT DO TO TRY TO COMBAT THE CRISIS WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF?

WELL, LAW ENFORCEMENT, DEA, WE ARE A LAW ENFORCEMENT ORGANIZATION, WE WORK WITH NEW YORK STATE, THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT AND WE'RE GOOD AT WHAT WE DO.

CHAPO GUZMAN, HE'S SITTING IN A JAIL IN MANHATTAN RIGHT NOW.

DOES SOMEBODY THEN TAKE THEIR PLACE?

SURE.

IS IT FILL A VACUUM WHEN ONE OF THE BIG GUYS IS TAKEN DOWN?

ABSOLUTELY BECAUSE THERE'S TOO MUCH MONEY IN IT.

A LOT OF PEOPLE TAKE THE RISK.

ON A SECONDARY NOTE, WE ARE INVOLVED WITH EDUCATION PERHAPS, TALKING TO THE PUBLIC, PUBLIC HEALTH AWARENESS.

AGAIN, THE NUMBERS ARE STARTLING.

IT IS A FRIGHTENING EPIDEMIC.

WE APPRECIATE YOU, WHAT THE DEA AND ALL OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES IN NEW YORK ARE DOING.

WE APPRECIATE YOU COMING IN TO HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING.

HOPEFULLY WE WILL TALK TO YOU DOWN THE ROAD.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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