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Schumer: Bipartisan Bill Will Provide Feds With More Resources: Including Additional Border Agents And Scientists, Drug Labs, Training & New Portable Devices To Detect & Intercept Illicit Fentanyl And Other Synthetic Opioids 

Senator Says Rochester And The Finger-Lakes Region Has Experienced An Explosion Of Drug Use Including Fentanyl-Laced Heroin & Meth, As Well As Drug-Related Crime 

Schumer: Feds Need More Resources To Shutdown Stream Of Fentanyl From Ever Reaching Rochester

Standing at the Monroe County Crime Lab in Rochester with local law enforcement officials, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced his support for bipartisan legislation that would help cutoff the flow of illicit fentanyl from China, Mexico, and other countries into Upstate New York and across the United States. With fentanyl increasingly making its way onto the streets of Rochester, Schumer launched a major effort to push the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act also known as the INTERDICT Act and provide additional resources to confront the epidemic. The legislation, introduced by Senator Markey (MA), would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the hi-tech tools and resources needed to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers. Schumer said he would work with his colleagues to take action on this issue that is destroying families in New York and the rest of the country.

“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets, and destroying our families. We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give CBP the resources to stop this flood and help save lives,” said Senator Schumer. “The INTERDICT Act will provide those on the frontlines with hi-tech tools that can root out fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that are leading to tragic deaths here in Rochester and throughout New York. The devastation these drugs cause is not a partisan issue, and I’ll be fighting hard to get my colleagues on board to get this bill through the Senate.”

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into Rochester and is wreaking havoc and destroying families. The most recent data available reveals that within the first six months of 2016 there were 74 overdose deaths in Monroe County. At this rate, it is on pace to surpass the previous highest number of 94 deaths in 2014.  The Monroe County Health Department has reported that this spike in overdoses is due in part to the prevalence of fentanyl-use, and its derivatives, sweeping through the region. Moreover, the Monroe County Crime laboratory is seeing fentanyl more commonly in items seized in criminal investigations. Fentanyl is being mixed with heroin, and more recently with methamphetamines and cocaine, as well as prescription medications like quetiapine and tramadol.  During a two-month period last year alone, the Monroe County Crime Lab analyzed over 129 items that held pure fentanyl, compared to 2015, when only four items containing pure fentanyl were found over the entire 12-month period. Schumer said that the prevalence of illegal drugs transported to Rochester through ports of entry, U.S. Mail, or express consignment facilities was put in the spotlight last year when one of the largest drug busts ever found 10 kilograms of cocaine and 600 grams of heroin. It turned out that the heroin was shipped via Fed Ex, showing how these drugs are getting through gaps in screening.

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 in order to avoid CBP detection. In 2016, CBP seized nearly 200 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, primarily from along the southwest border. This is a 25-fold increase over seizures in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, deaths involving synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl, increased by 72 percent, taking more than 9,500 lives. The labs that make these synthetic opioids 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 $3000 to $5000 in fentanyl purchased from a Chinese drug laboratory for up to $1.5 million on the street. 

And with drug overdose deaths exceeding car crashes as the number one cause of injury death, it is clear that the federal government must take every possible step to quell the opioid epidemic. In Monroe County, officials are seeing more fentanyl at crime scenes and there has been an explosion of opioid related deaths.  Between 2011 and 2015, there were nearly 200 deaths due to opioid-related drug use. Most recently, in the first half of 2016 Monroe County suffered saw an unprecedented 74 deaths related to opioid drug use. 

To address these challenges, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the INTERDICT Act in March of 2017 in order to ensure CBP has 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, announced his support for the bi-partisan legislation.

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 $15 million for hundreds of new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities, and personnel for support during all operational hours.

Schumer’s push comes as law enforcement has begun warning about new and more-deadly potent varieties of fentanyl being found in the United States, shipped here from overseas manufacturers.  Specifically, law enforcement is also very concerned with 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. 


Schumer noted that with Rochester and Western New York’s proximity to the international border with Canada, it’s even more critical to strengthen our border screening ability.  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 determining illicit drugs, like fentanyl, with the help of high-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.

Schumer was joined by Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn, Rochester Police Dept. Deputy Chief Scott Peters, Brockport Police Chief and President Monroe Co. Police Chief’s Association Daniel Varrenti, Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe Co. Crime Lab Administrator John Clark, Monroe County Crime Lab Forensic Chemist Supervisor James Wesley.

Rochester Police Department Deputy Chief Scott Peters said, “More potent and more lethal fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin is increasingly flowing into our region.  We know these drugs are originating outside of our borders, so while the Rochester Police Department Special Investigations Section and the Greater Rochester Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (GRANET) is working to get these drugs out of our community, we appreciate support from our federal elected officials like Senator Schumer to bolster resources to find resources to stop fentanyl from entering our country from abroad.”

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, “The opioid epidemic causes widespread pain and suffering for families in Monroe County. Such a complex public safety issue requires a multi-pronged approach to solve, and I am supportive of Senator Schumer's efforts to keep these dangerous substances out of our community and out of our country. It is our hope that no family has to endure the tragedy of overdose again."

“Monroe County is continuing to experience numerous deaths from opioid overdose, precipitated in part by the sharp increase in presence of fentanyl and its derivatives," said Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health. "The medical community cannot tackle this problem alone, so we greatly appreciate the federal government's support in helping stop the flood of fentanyl coming into the U.S., and communities like Monroe County."