SEATTLE — Seattle police have seized nearly 650,000 fentanyl-based pills in the city so far this year. Last year, officers seized 63,000 fentanyl pills.
Just three years ago in 2018, officers seized less than 200 fentanyl pills across the city.
Interim Chief Adrian Diaz with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) announced the increase Wednesday during a press briefing.
In one incident late last week, SPD, Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested four suspected drug dealers.
The operation resulted in the seizure of nearly 4,000 counterfeit M20 fentanyl pills, 900 Xanax pills that were potentially fentanyl-laced, roughly 63 grams of powder cocaine, 406 grams of methamphetamine and 52 grams of black tar heroin.
“I want to remind people, especially parents, to speak with children about not taking pills from anyone other than a trusted source. A young person at a party may think that they're taking a legitimate painkiller, but it's very likely it could be laced with fentanyl, and that pill could kill,” Diaz said.
Along with the hundreds of thousands of pills, SPD’s narcotics unit has seized 57 handguns, nine rifles and four shotguns from drug traffickers throughout the city.
Meanwhile, deadly fentanyl-related overdoses have more than doubled across the King County region this year. Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer said that King County has seen 331 fentanyl-related overdose deaths, which is more than half the total of overdose deaths in the region.
“All ages, all walks of life are impacted by drug overdoses,” Hammer said.
SPD and Hammer’s team partnered for Operation Bear Trap, which started at the beginning of summer, to crack down on fentanyl flowing into the Pacific Northwest.
Ahead of the operation, investigators learned that fentanyl being found in Seattle and other areas is coming from two primary locations, according to Hammer.
Most of the narcotics enter the area through the I-5 corridor and are manufactured in Mexico by cartels that smuggle the drugs across the border, Hammer said. These cartels use chemicals purchased from countries in east Asia.
The second location is what Hammer calls “entrepreneurs” who are buying pill presses from the black market and selling their own fentanyl-laced pills.
The increase in drug activity is linked to the increase in gun violence throughout the city and region, according to Hammer and Diaz, with SPD seizing more than 1,000 guns across the city this year.
“Your local pill dealer is not a local pill dealer. He is an armed drug trafficker," Hammer said. "And that is the evolution of what has taken place that we've seen on the streets.”