Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced today that Maryland has joined a first-of-its-kind task force that will leverage the resources of several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to combat the growing and dangerous cross-border distribution of heroin.
Prosecutors in the Maryland Office of the Attorney General will join counterparts in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine as part of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Heroin Task Force to tackle a mounting public safety and health threat.
“The flow of heroin is not confined to one state, and the fight against this scourge must not be limited to one state,” said Attorney General Frosh. “Sharing information and pooling our resources will produce real results. We are facing a public health and safety crisis that demands our best work and our most creative solutions.”
Heroin abuse is one of the most significant drug problems facing law enforcement and public health officials in Maryland, and across the United States.
In Maryland, heroin-related intoxication deaths have increased yearly from 2011 to 2013, and 2014 was on track for another upsurge as of September. Heroin-related fatalities in Maryland increased from 247 in 2011, to 392 in 2012, to 464 in 2013. The 2014 death toll was 428 as of September, the latest figures available. Maryland’s emergency department visits for heroin soared from 480 in 2011, to 871 in 2012 to more than 1,200 in 2013.
Twenty-two percent of heroin sized in the Baltimore-Washington region in 2014 originated in New York and New Jersey, more than from any other place, according to White House High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area data. Skyrocketing demand for the drug and higher profit margins for traffickers are driving the flow. Using a sophisticated network of narcotics distributors, interstate drug rings are able to disperse large quantities of heroin with increased effectiveness.
“We need to shut down the pipelines that are bringing these dangerous drugs into Maryland,” Frosh said. “Sophisticated criminal operations need to know that they can’t cross a state line to evade prosecution.”
The Task Force is led by the attorneys general of New York and Pennsylvania. In addition to Maryland, Maine joined the partnership today.
“Heroin traffickers are spreading addiction and death up and down the Eastern seaboard. We cannot allow these criminals to escape justice by crossing state borders,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “By expanding our Task Force to include Maine and Maryland, we are increasing our capacity to share information and resources across law enforcement agencies, which will make it easier to break up the multistate drug rings that are poisoning our communities.”
The primary goal of the Task Force is collaboration, coordination and information-sharing between state attorneys general and other law enforcement officials. Each participating agency brings unique experience, methodology, analytical techniques and technologies; joining forces will allow for more targeted investigation and prosecution of drug rings and pipelines.
The Task Force will expand the exchange of information such as specific subjects, phone numbers, addresses, distribution routes and stash houses used to store heroin. Information shared, coupled with active enforcement collaboration, will lead to larger and stronger criminal cases targeting large-scale distribution operations spanning multiple states, which are funneling heroin into our communities.
Additionally, authorities often identify informants who have knowledge about heroin trafficking activities in other states, and the Task Force will allow for better use of that information.