Police fear fewer fentanyl imports don’t signal the end of the overdose crisis

RCMP say it’s just as likely that criminal are getting more clever

Despite fewer fentanyl seizures from shipments being flown and mailed to B.C. last year, police warn that the amount of the deadly opioid being smuggled in might not be decreasing.

Insp. Rob Parker, who heads up RCMP E Division’s federal serious and organized crime unit, said Thursday that although imports tracked by the Canada Border Security Agency have decreased by 20 per cent in 2017, that doesn’t mean the opioid overdose is letting up

According to figures obtained from the CBSA, 56 seizures resulted in 10,661 grams of fentanyl seized at by mail or at the airport in 2017.

The previous year, 13,701 grams were seized over 55 seizures.

Parker said that while the decreasing amounts look to be at odds with the the opioid crisis that has gripped B.C. for close to two years, “obviously it would be counterintuitive to assume that they’re getting everything.”

The CBSA statistics provided only measure what comes into the province at the Vancouver International Mail Centre and Vancouver International Airport cargo centre.

Parker said drug dealers often bring in fentanyl via land and air borders. The fentanyl data provided by the CBSA only showed air and mail imports; however, seizures of general narcotics by land, sea, air and rail dropped by about half between 2016 and 2017.

Parker told Black Press that from what he and his team have seen, it’s too early to assume fentanyl imports are slowing down.

“Sadly, I think it’s still early days in the fentanyl opioid crisis,” he said, noting that a fewer seizures are as likely to be proof of more clever drug dealers as they are to show a real decrease in drugs going in.

The latest statistics available show that in B.C. 1,208 people have died from opioid overdose-related deaths in the first 10 months of 2017. Of those, 83 per cent are linked to fentanyl.

Overdose-related deaths have nearly doubled since the previous year: from January to October 2016, 683 people died. In the first 10 months of 2015, 402 people died.

The BC Coroners service has linked the increase in overdose deaths to the increase in fentanyl in B.C.’s communities, citing a 136 per cent increase in fentanyl-linked deaths in the first 10 months of 2017, compared to the first 10 months of 2016.

‘The economics are frightening’

Parker said fentanyl’s potency – 100 times stronger than morphine – makes it so alluring to drug dealers. Drug dealers are now mixing pure fentanyl or fentanyl analogues with buffering agents that can stretch mere grams of the deadly opioid into much more profitable quantities.

“We’re seeing fentanyl purchased in a pure format being mixed with a buffering-type agent, extending the quantity,” said Parker. “They’re turning a small amount of fentanyl into what’s being held out as larger amount of cocaine or heroin.”

Police worry that the profitability of fentanyl is contributing to the gang-style shootings seen across the region.

Four people have died in reported gang-related violence in the first three weeks of 2018. Three were targeted; a fourth, 15-year-old Alfred Wong, was hit by a stray bullet while driving by a shootout in Vancouver.

“There’s obviously a connection to organized crime, trafficking and narcotics that we need to be concerned about.”

It’s coming from inside the country

Police are also beginning to fear that some fentanyl is being produced domestically.

“That’s absolutely a possibility,” said Parker.

“There is some evidence that there is a threat that it’s being manufactured… in Canada. The RCMP definitely harbour some concerns.”

In B.C., which has seen the worst fatal overdoses in Canada, that concern is escalated.

“It could be potentially related to the volume and the crisis within B.C.,” said Parker.

“I don’t think we’re at a point where I could say it’s absolutely happening at this level and here’s what we’ve seized.”

Parker said that while the RCMP have a variety of investigations of the go, they couldn’t provide firm numbers at this point.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

XXX

Just Posted

Oak Bay wins Island girls hoops title

Breakers and Spartans meet in final for eighth time in the last 10 seasons

Cherry blossom map points to where spring has sprung in Victoria

City released a handy guide to find the most beautiful buds

Saanich’s proposed building code changes come under fire

VRBA head says changes to energy efficiency standards will bring up to $100,000 in additional costs

Real estate money laundering ‘deeply troubling’

Attorney General will investigate

Victoria Harbour most polluted on B.C. coast: study

City’s industrial past and more recently, pharmaceuticals, create high levels of pollutants

WATCH: Vancouver Island man catches dashcam video of near head-on crash

Video shows oncoming van cross over centre line

School shooting unfathomable to Saanich student

Claremont Grade 10 student reflects on the carnage inflicted on U.S. schools

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

#Metoo movement causing confusion in many men, fear of missteps with women: experts

Being painted by the same sweeping brush as those alleged to have mistreated women has angered men

Liberals to dig deeper, aim higher on gender equality in 2018 federal budget

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the budget would include measures to boost women in the workforce

Vancouver Island’s Teal Harle finishes fifth in Olympic Men’s Slopestyle skiing

‘I’ve definitely surpassed every expectation I had for the Games’ – Harle

Body of missing skier found

Man’s truck found in Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s parking lot covered in ‘several days’ snow’

B.C. VIEWS: Subsidy supercluster settles in B.C.

Ottawa, Victoria add to their overlapping ‘innovation’ budgets

Most Read