(CNS News) -- San Diego and Imperial County comprise the epicenter of fentanyl drug trafficking in the United States, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which reported that seizures of fentanyl in San Diego were up 323% in FY2019-FY2021 and that fentanyl overdose deaths increased 2,375% in San Diego County between 2016 and 2021.
“A decade ago, we didn’t even know about fentanyl, and now it’s a national crisis,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman. “The amount of fentanyl we are seizing at the border is staggering. The number of fentanyl seizures and fentanyl-related deaths in our district are unprecedented.”
More fentanyl is seized in San Diego and Imperial County than in any of the 300-plus ports of entry into the U.S., said Grossman's office in a press release.
In the firsts nine months of FY2022 (October 2021-June 2022) Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) captured 5,091 pounds of fentanyl. That "amounts to about 60 percent of the 8,425 pounds of fentanyl seized around the entire country," said the DOJ.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, "Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose. Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder."
In San Diego, the CBP said fentanyl seizures went up 323% in the last three years, "from just 1,599 pounds in FY 2019 to 6,767 in FY 2021."
In addition, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said that "fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased 2,375 percent in San Diego County, from 33 in 2016 to at least 817 in 2021," according to the DOJ.
The DOJ also reported that Mexican drug cartels are heavily involved in fentanyl manufacturing and trafficking in the U.S., and that much of the precursor chemicals needed to make fentanyl come from Communist China.
“Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous narcotic that kills indiscriminately,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “Fentanyl is not the type of drug you experiment with, and it is only a matter of time before drug users consume a fatal dose. This deadly drug does not discriminate nor do the transnational criminal organizations (TCO) who smuggle this dangerous drug."
These organizations "have no regard for the lives taken and the violence created by this illegal enterprise," said Plantz. "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and prioritize investigations targeting the drug cartels who are smuggling fentanyl into the United States and bring to justice any organization or individuals who seek to profit off the sale of this dangerous narcotic.”
Grossman's office explained that its is focused on prosecution of the criminals trafficking in fentanyl and prevention for the people tempted to partake in drug use.
“We continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue justice for the victims who die as a result of fentanyl trafficking and to prosecute the people responsible for this crisis," said Grossman, "from the Mexican drug cartel leadership, to the couriers, to the street dealers who distribute the fatal doses."
He added that in the Southern District of California over the last five years there has been a 1,600% increase in prosecutions of people engaged in fentanyl-related crimes.