ARIZONA NEWS

Pandemic changed drug trafficking at border, DEA Phoenix head says

Apr 22, 2021, 4:55 AM
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The vast majority of drugs in the United States come through the southwest border, and the way the cartels are getting them across has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the local head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“We used to see a lot of people coming through the border with small quantities of fentanyl, methamphetamine, whatever was selling at the time,” Cheri Oz, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Phoenix Field Division, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“Because of COVID and the travel restrictions, there’s kind of a funnel effect,” she added. “There are fewer people that are allowed to pass the border and those people are taking bigger risks, and they’re carrying larger quantities.”

Oz said that’s resulting in her office doing larger drug seizures.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows the amount of drugs the agency seized over the past few months has been fluctuating, but it’s lower than the last major peak in October when 81,564 pounds of drugs were seized.

Most of the drugs coming across the border are sent by the Sinaloa Cartel. Once the drugs get across into Arizona, it is packaged and distributed throughout the rest of the United States.

“We are the logistics hub for the Sinaloa Cartel,” Oz explained, adding that fentanyl is one of the cartel’s biggest products and one of the leading causes of overdoses in the country.

Preliminary data released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows overdose deaths climbed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic drugs were the primary drivers.

The CDC data shows more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September. That’s a 27% increase from the previous year.

There were a total of 2,580 reported overdose deaths in Arizona, about a 36% jump from the previous year.

Oz said as overdose deaths have been increasing over the years, so has the presence of fentanyl in illicit drugs.

“Five years ago, there was zero fentanyl seized,” she said. “Last year, DEA seized over 6 million fentanyl pills. That gives you an idea of how the threat has grown and how quickly we have become a nation addicted to fentanyl.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Photo by Jeff Topping/Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Storms on Friday, Saturday could bring flooding, over 2 inches of rain to most of metro Phoenix

A meteorologist says the strongest storm system of the monsoon season will hit metro Phoenix over the next couple of days.
13 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/City of Mesa)...
KTAR.com

ASU film, digital media school opens in downtown Mesa

And ... action! Students in film, video production and digital technology will begin fall classes Thursday at the new Arizona State University campus in downtown Mesa.
13 hours ago
Member of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce participate in a regional salon dinner in ...
Kevin Stone

Hispanic chamber holding national conference in Phoenix this fall, with preview event Thursday

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will hold its 2022 national conference in Phoenix this fall, with a kick-off reception set for Thursday night.
13 hours ago
(AP Photo, File/Nati Harnik)...
Associated Press

Arizona judges reject challenges to 2 voter initiatives for November ballot

Judges rejected challenges to two Arizona voter initiative on Wednesday, siding with proponents of a measure limiting so-called predatory debt collection and for one that would require people who fund political campaigns through nonprofit groups to be identified.
13 hours ago
Colleen Nussnaumer (Photo via Peoria Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Missing West Valley woman found safe, Silver Alert canceled

A Silver Alert for a missing West Valley woman was canceled Thursday after she was found safe, authorities said.
13 hours ago
Gary Moddrell (Photo via Peoria Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert issued for Peoria man with memory problems

A Silver Alert was issued for a Peoria man who has been missing since Tuesday, authorities said.
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Pandemic changed drug trafficking at border, DEA Phoenix head says