Buffalo's Niagara International Airport  And Peace Bridge Have Been Key Points Of Entry For Drug Smuggling; This Tech Can Help Derail Trafficking Across The Region 

Once President Signs Bi-Partisan Schumer-Backed Bill Known As The INTERDICT Act, Senator Wants Portable Chemical Detection Technology In Buffalo ASAP to Begin to Intercept Illicit Fentanyl, and Potentially Save Lives

Schumer: Buffalo Is Just One Signature Away From Writing A New Chapter In The Opioid Scourge 

Amidst the continued opioid scourge plaguing the nation and robbing New York lives, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the President to immediately sign a recently passed bipartisan bill he helped push that will help cutoff the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into New York via the State's International Crossings, such as the Peace Bridge.  The “International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act,” also known as the INTERDICT Act, will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) new hi-tech—and portable—tools and personnel to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers.

“Now that Congress has passed the INTERDICT Act‎, New York is just one signature away from writing a new chapter in the opioid scourge,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “This new law will make sure our ports of entry like Peace Bridge or Buffalo-Niagara Airport have access to more handheld chemical scanners to test suspicious substances and provide vital real-time data on its source. That means narcotics, like illicit fentanyl, can be quickly detected, identified, and seized on the spot—and it means our diligent screening staff will be safer because they will be able to detect dangerous substances more quickly and without exposure.”

And Schumer today further pushed CBP to ensure Buffalo is amongst the first cities to receive these high-tech detection devices. Schumer said that the Peace Bridge is a major point of entry for smuggling fentanyl, especially from overseas. Schumer said that CBP needs the new equipment to effectively examine packages and intercept masked substances. The seized packages can then be used to provide agents with key intelligence on where the drugs are coming from and what to look for next. CBP officials at the Peace Bridge and Buffalo Niagara International Airport would benefit from this technology, stopping deadly drugs before they spread across the Western New York region.

Schumer continued, “As a port of entry, Buffalo should be amongst the first locations to receive new high-tech drug scanners once this bill is signed into law.”

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into New York and is wreaking havoc and destroying families across Buffalo and Upstate New York. Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured. While distributors in China are the principal source of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug, as well as a source for finished-product illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, Mexico is the primary source for illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods to mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods, like baby powder, candles or laundry detergent, in order to avoid CBP detection. The labs that make synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, and take advantage of CBP’s limited capabilities to screen international packages, know that fentanyl is extremely lucrative for dealers and cartels, who can sell $3,000 to $5,000 in fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for up to $1.5 million on the street. 

In FY 2017, CBP seized approximately 1,296 pounds of fentanyl, more than double the seized amount in FY16.

Moreover, law enforcement has begun to warn about new and more-deadly potent varieties of fentanyl being found in the United States, shipped here from overseas manufacturers. Specifically, law enforcement has been concerned about the emergence of “3-methylfentanyl” as well as “Carfentanil,” which is one of the strongest opioids in the fentanyl class of drugs. Carfentanil, which is an opioid used to tranquilize elephants, is 100 times more potent than fentanyl and has been found in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. 

To address the challenges CBP faces in detecting and intercepting these drugs, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the INTERDICT Act in March of 2017 in order to provide CBP with ample tools to identify illicit drugs and prevent them from coming across the border. Schumer, who has a history of working to get CBP resources and equipment necessary to keeping our ports and borders safe, was a staunch and early supporter of the bi-partisan legislation. The bill passed Congress unanimously on December 29, 2017.

Specifically, the INTERDICT Act:

·         Ensures that CBP will have additional portable chemical screening devices available at ports of entry and mail and express consignment facilities, and additional fixed chemical screening devices available in CBP laboratories.

·         Provides CBP with sufficient resources, personnel, and facilities – including scientists available during all operational hours – to interpret screening test results from the field.  

·         Authorizes – based on CBP guidance – the appropriation of $9 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

Schumer explained CBP, which is on the front lines of the U.S. effort to stop fentanyl from crossing into our borders from abroad, requires these additional resources to keep ahead of fentanyl manufacturers looking to ship drugs into the United States. CBP has a number of tools it uses to screen contraband smuggled into the United States at the border or through the mail. When it encounters a suspicious substance, it can be difficult to detect the source of the illicit material and whether it poses a hazard to them. In order to confront this challenge, CBP has had success with screening and identifying illicit drugs, like fentanyl, with the help of hi-tech, handheld chemical screening devices. The INTERDICT Act ensures that CBP has access to additional portable chemical screening devices and extra personnel in their laboratories, in order to better interpret tests gathered from the field, and minimize agent’s exposure to dangerous substances.

Now that the INTERDICT Act has passed Congress, Schumer urged the President to immediately sign the bill into law and make sure Buffalo Niagara International Airport is prioritized. Schumer today said because Buffalo Niagara International Airport is a key port of entry drug smuggling it should be one of the first locations to receive new hi-tech scanning machines. The new technology will enable officers on the frontlines to more efficiently intercept fentanyl and prevent its spread into New York and throughout communities across the country.


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