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DHS Enhances CBP Efforts to Combat Fentanyl and Synthetic Drugs Crisis

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San Diego, October 26, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to tackle the devastating national opioid epidemic, which has claimed countless American lives and impacted communities across the nation. This updated CBP strategy aligns with President Biden’s Unity Agenda Strategy, aimed at combating the overdose epidemic.

Troy A. Miller, CBP’s Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner, introduced this strategic initiative at a press conference in San Diego, emphasizing the crucial role CBP plays as the largest law enforcement agency in the United States. He was joined by federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, marking the commencement of Operation Apollo, a joint regional operation that complements the strategy’s objectives.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas highlighted the Department’s commitment to battling the fentanyl crisis and urged Congress to provide CBP with essential resources. He noted that the department had intercepted more fentanyl in the last two years than in the previous five, emphasizing their resolve to prevent these deadly substances from reaching American streets.

Troy Miller, reflecting on his three-decade career as a customs official, called the trafficking of synthetic drugs like fentanyl one of the most challenging issues he’s encountered. He stressed the uniqueness of CBP’s modernized strategy, which harnesses the agency’s formidable capabilities to confront the illicit synthetic drug trade. This approach fosters collaboration with both domestic and international partners, prioritizing the safety of the American people.

The CBP Strategy to Combat Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Drugs adopts a holistic approach that aligns with DHS’s broader interagency efforts against illicit synthetic narcotics. This strategy leverages CBP’s expertise, intelligence, and data resources to disrupt transnational criminal organizations responsible for producing, distributing, and trafficking illicit fentanyl and synthetic drugs in the United States.

The updated strategy focuses on four key goals:

Promoting collaboration and information-sharing to combat illicit synthetic drug networks.
Producing actionable intelligence for targeting illicit synthetic drug networks.
Conducting coordinated, data-driven operations to target the production, trafficking, and distribution of illicit synthetic materials.
Promoting safe handling protocols and educational materials to protect the CBP workforce, families, and communities.
This updated strategy adapts to the ever-evolving landscape of synthetic narcotics, encompassing not only fentanyl and its analogues but also the misuse of otherwise legal precursors, such as methamphetamine.

CBP, with its combination of interdiction and intelligence capabilities, border search authorities, scientific services, non-intrusive inspection equipment, and canine detection teams, stands at the forefront of the U.S. government’s efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis. The agency remains committed to collaborating with partners to disrupt the illicit fentanyl supply chain while ensuring the safety of CBP personnel and canines.

As an initial step in implementing the updated strategy, CBP announces Operation Apollo, a Southern California counter-fentanyl joint operation with a primary focus on intelligence collection. This operation involves law enforcement agencies at various levels and fusion centers, all working together to disrupt drug and chemical supply chains and share valuable intelligence.

Operation Apollo builds on previous actions to strengthen enforcement intelligence on trafficking networks in Southern California, unraveling the tactics, techniques, and procedures used by transnational criminal organizations to transport fentanyl and related materials across the country. It identifies key indicators that aid law enforcement in disrupting the drug supply in American communities.

Fentanyl production, which was initially limited to China when CBP’s previous strategy was developed in 2018, has since expanded to other source and transit countries, posing a significant challenge to halting the illicit drug flow into the United States. The movement of these chemicals is further complicated by their legitimate uses, making it essential to target locations and recipients exhibiting patterns of illicit activity.

CBP remains committed to adapting to new challenges posed by transnational criminal organizations and leveraging the latest information. Earlier this year, CBP and its partners announced the results of Operation Blue Lotus and Operation Four Horsemen, aimed at interdicting finished fentanyl products along the Southwest border. Furthermore, Operation Artemis, which concluded last month, focused on preventing precursors and other means of production from entering the United States.

During Operation Artemis’s four months of operation, CBP achieved remarkable results, including:

Seizing over 13,000 pounds of fentanyl precursor chemicals.
Confiscating over 2,590 pounds of non-fentanyl precursor chemicals.
Intercepting 142 pill presses and 325 pill molds.
Seizing more than 270 pounds of fentanyl pills and powder, along with over 210 pounds of Xylazine.
Capturing more than 1,160 pounds of methamphetamine.
And apprehending over 11,230 pounds of other finished synthetic drugs.
CBP continues to strengthen its efforts to combat the fentanyl and synthetic drug crisis, driven by the commitment to safeguard American communities from the devastating impact of these substances.

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