President Donald Trump’s “drug czar” on Monday noted the dramatic increase in drug seizures at Michigan’s border with Canada is mirroring what the government is experiencing elsewhere around the country.
Jim Carroll, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, toured Customs and Border Protection’s Detroit field office Monday after the Michigan-Canada border saw a 1,700% spike in seizures of illegal drugs this past year.
The drug spike is similar to what’s being reported across the United States, along with cash and firearms being seized at borders, Carroll said. He added the primary source of fentanyl used to be mail sent from China.
“What we’re seeing in Michigan is really consistent with what we’re seeing across the country,” Carroll said. “The president had a commitment from President Xi of China and since that time, mail containing fentanyl has basically dropped to zero. But now, what we’re seeing is an uptick at our borders coming in either at the southwest border or sadly, even here in Michigan.”
Carroll toured the Ambassador Bridge port of entry on Monday and spoke on the administration’s actions to address the drug epidemic coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These people here are saving lives,” said Carroll, who previously worked for 10 years as a lawyer for Ford Motor Co. “The 1,700% uptick includes a dramatic uptick in the amount of fentanyl that was seized. They’re seizing pounds and pounds of it enough for 3 million, maybe more, lethal doses coming right through Michigan.”
The 1,700% surge in seizures were conducted by the Detroit Field Office, which oversees the Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, drug enforcement operations in Michigan’s five ports netted more than 9,000 pounds of marijuana, 211 pounds of cocaine, more than 1.5 pounds of methamphetamines, and 15 pounds of fentanyl, officials announced last week.
A total of 203 firearms were seized, a 227% increase from last year, along with 5,334 rounds of ammunition. Anything not included in a prosecution investigation will be destroyed, said Christopher Perry, director of field operations for CBP Detroit.
Undeclared currency seized totaled $4.6 million, which will be returned to the U.S. Treasury’s general fund.
A total of 225 people were arrested during the fiscal year, charged with smuggling narcotics or people, firearm violations and fraud. That is down from 549 arrests made in the previous year when the border was open.
Rates of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which includes fentanyl, increased 10% from 2017 to 2018, killing more than 31,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If not for COVID travel restrictions, Perry believes the department would have surpassed the number of weapons and arrests of previous years.
“Early on during the spread, we quickly adapted to protect the American public health. While our non-essential numbers dropped dramatically, 90%, our trade remained almost unchanged,” Perry said. “Through one-minute X-rays, we’ve seen completely false tires and caught anomalies from drug traffickers. To put it in perspective, three grains of salt would be a fatal dose of fentanyl and we collected 15 pounds.”
During their tour, Carroll watched as trained K-9’s Sony and Butch found concealed narcotics, watched X-rays of trucks entering the port, and visited with agriculture specialists who spoke on interceptions of destructive pests such as the khapra beetle.
Carroll said he wanted to congratulate the office for their work but also to talk about what more can be done.
“We’re trying to do this across the board, whether it’s a wall system at the southwest border, or adding more people here at other borders … this is what we’re able to do by having more people deployed at these places with the pandemic, there’s fewer traffic coming into the country through restrictions.”
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