35 arrested in effort to target heroin/ opioid epidemic

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Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – Local officials are taking aim at the heroin/ opioid epidemic that is killing Utahns at an alarming rate.

Friday, they announced the results of a significant bust in our state.

Local lawmakers and law enforcement officials stood united at the Capitol, determined to fight the deadly epidemic on multiple fronts.

“We are losing over 30 individuals in Utah a month from heroin and opioid abuse. We must aggressively help people to live, and not die,” said DEA Agent in Charge Brian Besser.

An investigation by local agencies that help make up the Utah Opioid Task Force did just that.

It focused on the Pioneer Park area, and tracked the supplies to Mexico and Honduras.

“A successful joint operation. The joint operation began over a year ago, and takes down one of the largest drug smuggling operations in Utah’s recent past,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.

So far, 35 high level cartel members have been arrested, 23 vehicles used to smuggle drugs, guns and money have been seized. Along with 35 pounds of heroin, 25 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of meth and more than $1.1 million in cash.

Besser says there’s no doubt this effort saved lives, but there is still more to do.

“You’ve got a bunch of different little cells operating independently, and collectively together to achieve a common goal. That common goal is to get as much poison on the streets of Salt Lake City, so they can make as much money as fast as possible on the backs of of the drug user,” Besser said.

Policy makers are tackling the problem from a different angle. About 80% of heroin addicts start with prescription drugs.

Speaker Greg Hughes says there needs to be a focus on pharmaceuticals and doctors disclosing the dangers.

“The pain killers that are being prescribed, is it really understood that they have that propensity for addiction, that it is creating the kind of human carnage that we are seeing happen,” added Hughes, (R) Draper.

The investigation is ongoing. Those that have been arrested so far are either sitting in local jails or have been deported.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...