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Harris County launches task force targeting fentanyl traffickers

The opioid made up 49% of the 1,096 fatal drug overdoses in Harris County in 2022.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County is cracking down on fentanyl by launching a task force to go after dealers. They're teaming up with other local, state and federal agencies.

The opioid made up 49% of the 1,096 fatal drug overdoses in Harris County in 2022 and 74% of those among 14 to 25 years old.

“We have more people dying of this than murder,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Ogg said fentanyl is impacting people from all backgrounds. DEA officials say the danger is often hidden.

“Both are prescription pills,” said Daniel C. Comeaux, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Houston Division, holding up two photos of pills that looked identical. “One is made by the drug cartel, and the other is made by a legitimate pharmacy.”

The DEA is part of the new task force led by the DA’s office to target fentanyl traffickers with the most serious punishments, including murder when possible.

Ogg said they also want to ensure treatment for addicts.

“Our country’s changing their perspective on criminal justice, on drugs, on how we treat users and how we treat traffickers, and I think that’s what you’re seeing mirrored in our collaboration,” said Ogg.

Doug Griffith, President of Houston Police Officers’ Union, applauded the DA’s office for the move. However, Griffith says the crime lab needs more funding and staffing to test the drugs.

As of April 12, there were 1,479 seized drug requests with a delay of more than 30 days.

“Our officers are out there doing the job,” said Griffith. “They’re tagging narcotics every single day, but we are unable to catch up with the testing, and until we can catch up with the testing, we’re gonna have judges that are gonna toss these cases saying no PC (probable cause) just for the test alone. We’ve gotta find a way around that.”

Ogg said she and law enforcement leaders are pushing for more crime lab funding. In the meantime, leaders urged parents to stay involved in their kids’ lives to help protect them from fentanyl.

“Be a nosy parent,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “Go into the bedrooms. Know the passcodes as well.”

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