ON THE FRONTLINES

December 28, 2018 at 4:45 am

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.

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>>> 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.

Mutual of America PSEG

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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