Police Chief: Fentanyl Remains ‘Biggest Problem Drug’ Locally
Jamestown Police Chief Timothy Jackson responded with a single word when asked at a recent press conference if there was a common thread to a rash of gun violence in the city.
In an interview this week, Jackson expounded on what has been another big year in narcotics seizures by the city’s drug task force. Staples of those seizures usually include methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine.
But it’s fentanyl that worries Jackson.
“Fentanyl is the biggest problem drug I would say right now,” Jackson told The Post-Journal. “It’s so potent and it obviously leads to overdoses, too.”
Described by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, task force members have been collecting fentanyl at much higher rates the last two years during investigations.
As a prescription drug, fentanyl typically is used to treat patients with severe pain or to treat patients with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to other opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl.
According to the CDC, fentanyl is often mixed with heroin or cocaine as a combination product — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase its euphoric effects.
“It’s not a new drug by any means,” Jackson said. “It’s just more prevalent for whatever reason. We can speculate all day on how it gets here, but it’s definitely more prevalent and it’s more potent.”
This year, the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force has seized 415.6 grams of fentanyl through investigations. That does not include anything that may be collected during routine patrols.
In 2021, the task force seized 835.1 grams of fentanyl — which represented a significant increase from past years after 292.1 grams were collected in 2020; 159.2 grams in 2019; 6 grams in 2018; and 7 grams in 2017.
Jackson said there are added risks when abusing drugs, especially fentanyl.
“You don’t know what you’re getting,” he said. “When somebody does a drug, meth or heroin, they may not think there’s fentanyl in it. It’s so potent.”
Task force members also have seized the following this year: 92.8 grams of cocaine; 447.4 grams of crack cocaine; 11.4 grams of heroin; 3,288.9 grams of methamphetamine; 907.2 grams of marijuana; 124 suboxone strips; 30 units of LSD; and 4.5 grams of mushrooms/psilocybin.
A major factor in the increases is beefed up efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking that have been leading to overdoses. Those efforts have meant utilizing the take force more often.
“The overdoses we’re seeing plays a role into us being more agressive,” he said. “And, again, the violence that results from these narcotics dealing plays a role in it.”
Jackson has tied recent crimes involving weapons to ongoing narcotics trafficking. He said New York state’s 2019 bail reform law has allowed many repeat offenders to walk free after arrests to await trial.
“I hate to keep referring back to it but the lack of holding people accountable plays a major factor in it,” he said. “People don’t go to jail like they used to anymore for offenses like we’re talking about — narcotics and guns, too. They don’t go to jail anymore. Like earlier this year, we had someone get arrested three times for illegal possession of a gun, a pistol. That would have not happened in previous years.”
The landmark bail law did away with pre-trial incarceration for people accused of most nonviolent offenses. It has been criticized by police, prosecutors, unions and Republican lawmakers for taking discretion away from judges when setting bail.
Jackson pointed to the man arrested three times on weapons possession charges. He said dealing with repeat offenders takes officers away from other duties.
“Bail reform has not helped our efforts in any of this,” the police chief.
Regarding drug use, Jackson believes education is important.
“I think educating children at a young age and warning them is important too,” he said. “And I’m not saying that it’s not being done now, but I’m just saying that there’s so many different factors that go into a person choosing to do narcotics.”