MILLERSVILLE, Md. (November 02, 2018)—An eight-month investigation into a drug trafficking organization led to 21 arrests and seizure of more than $800,000 worth of products, Anne Arundel County Police announced at a press conference Tuesday.
"This is the start of a long, lonely autumn for heroin dealers in Anne Arundel County," said Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel County Executive.
The undercover investigation into the drug organization resulted in the seizure of nine vehicles, four handguns, about $300,000 in cash and more than 1.7 kilograms of fentanyl, along with heroin and other illegal substances, Sgt. Jacklyn Davis said.
The man authorities charged as leader of the drug ring, Glenn Anthony Davis, 49, of the Baltimore area, is facing 17 charges, including distribution of narcotics and organization of a criminal gang.
In addition to fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and controlled substances known as bath salts, police seized nearly nine kilograms of xylazine—most commonly used as a horse and cattle tranquilizer.
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said this is the first time he's ever heard of the drug, which he said can cut one normal heroin dosage into four.
An additional 1.5 kilograms of an unknown substance are still being tested, he said.
According to a report by the Maryland Department of Health, there have been 1,325 opioid and alcohol-related deaths in the state in the first six months of the year, more than 50 a week. Of those deaths, about 1,185 were opioid-related.
While the rate of increase has slowed in the past couple years, opioid-related deaths increased 13 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same time period last year. And fentanyl-related deaths have jumped more than 25 percent in the same period of time.
Going into the investigation, Altomare said, authorities linked the drug ring to seven reported overdoses—a number that could increase as the investigation continues.
Altomare said although many of the drugs were stored in Baltimore County, the organization's products were hitting the streets anywhere from Annapolis to Pasadena, and in northern parts of Anne Arundel County.
Those areas are unfortunately the center of the issue in Maryland.
According to the state department of health, about two-thirds of overdose deaths this year through June in Maryland are from Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County.
"This demonstrates our efforts and work to make our community safer," Schuh said. "Treatment, education and outreach programs are turning the tides."
The tides may be turning but there's still no clear insight into what else is in the water, authorities said.
Heroin and cocaine overdoses have largely been attributed to the use of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, authorities said.
The recovery of xylazine is even more of a cause for concern as it's still highly dangerous and, as Altomare said, officials are unsure just how prevalent it may be.