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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 Staten Island Has Experienced An Explosion Of Drug Use Including Fentanyl-Laced Heroin; At Least 48 People This Year Have Been Charged With Distributing Fentanyl, Heroin And Other Drugs Throughout SI & At Least 20 Suspected Overdose Deaths

Schumer: Feds Need More Resources To Shutdown Stream Of Fentanyl From Reaching Staten Island

Standing at the 121st Precinct in Graniteville, Staten Island, 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 New York City and across the United States. With fentanyl increasingly making its way onto the streets of Staten Island, 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.

Schumer was joined by Assemblyman Michael Cusick and Staten Island DA Michael McMahon.

“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 on Staten Island 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.”

"The opioid and heroin crisis has affected Staten Island in epidemic proportions and the recent abuse of fentanyl has only compounded our problem. Having worked on the many aspects of the epidemic on the state level in partnership with Senator Schumer, I strongly believe this legislation being introduced by the Senator will help cut off the stream of this dangerous drug from entering Staten Island, cut down on potential overdoses and prevent future individuals from becoming addicted," said Assemblyman Cusick.

“Tragically, we are seeing fentanyl-related overdoses claim the lives of too many on Staten Island. Drug dealers are mixing batches of heroin with this deadly synthetic opioid to create a toxic brew which they then purvey in our communities. In fact, fentanyl is so dangerous that even one touch could be lethal,” said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. “We must do all we can to cut off the supply of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs before it ever reaches our streets. I applaud Senator Schumer for proposing tough legislation that gives law enforcement the necessary tools to stop illegal drugs from flowing into our country which will be a big help in our continued mission to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic on Staten Island.”

Schumer explained that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has quickly swept into Staten Island and is wreaking havoc and destroying families. According to DA McMahon’s office, there have been at least 20 suspected overdoses deaths on Staten Island and approximately 50 individuals saved by naloxone so far this year. Over the span of just one week in April, naloxone was administered to nine individuals on Staten Island. In 2016, there were 90 overdose deaths on Staten Island and approximately 74 naloxone saves.

According to DA McMahon’s office, in January, police charged five individuals for allegedly dealing drugs on Staten Island, including a school paraprofessional who was selling fentanyl on school grounds. The supply chain ended in neighborhoods including Rossville, Richmondtown, Tottenville, Great Kills and Rosebank. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (EDNY), on February 22nd, nine individuals were charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and/or oxycodone in Staten Island. And in March, thirty-four people in Brooklyn were charged with distributing drugs, including fentanyl. The drugs were sold throughout the five boroughs. More than 103 pounds of heroin and fentanyl, worth $22 million, were seized.

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. 

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 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.