DEA Launches Project Wave Breaker to Stop Flood of Deadly Fentanyl
New initiative focuses on stemming the tide of synthetic fentanyl flowing into the United States
CHICAGO – The Drug Enforcement Administration is announcing a new initiative, Project Wave Breaker, to disrupt the flow of deadly fentanyl into the United States, and to dismantle the violent criminal organizations that are responsible.
Project Wave Breaker will direct interdiction, enforcement and outreach efforts to the Chicago Division to disrupt the flow of fentanyl in and around the United States. The initiative will also employ analytical intelligence assets to target the activities of Mexican transnational criminal organizations, which are the primary suppliers and distributors of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances throughout the United States.
“While a major entry point for fentanyl is the Southwest Border, the cartels are spreading their poison into communities across the Nation,” said DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans. “Through this initiative, we’re tackling a very real public health, public safety, and national security threat, identifying the most egregious street-level networks in our communities and working our way up through the supply chain.”
“The DEA has been laser focused on opioids, including the deadly synthetic opioid – fentanyl - whether laced in heroin or disguised in counterfeit pills,” said DEA Chicago Division Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Bell. “The new resources provided by Project Wave Breaker will immediately be used to strengthen current and future investigations, aimed at disrupting and dismantling violent transnational criminal organizations. The DEA and its partners will continue to work day-and-night to stop drug traffickers who insidiously cause the misery of drug dependence and drug overdose deaths. Everything we do is intended to save lives.”
The 11 DEA Divisions participating in Project Wave Breaker are credited with 85 percent of all synthetic opioids seized by the DEA in 2020. They include: Chicago, Phoenix, New York, San Diego, New England, Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco, Houston and El Paso.
Mexican cartels, particularly the Sinaloa Cartel, have capitalized on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug misuse in the United States, flooding communities with illicit fentanyl and driving the record-setting rates of overdose deaths. According to the most recently published CDC provisional data, more than 87,200 people died from overdoses last year, marking the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. Deaths involving synthetic opioids – predominately fentanyl - increased nearly 60 percent during the same 12-month period ending September 1, 2020.
Facts about fentanyl:
- Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent that morphine.
- Of counterfeit pills tested in DEA laboratories, one in four pills made with fentanyl contained a potentially lethal dose.
- One kilogram of fentanyl may contain up to 500,000 lethal doses. Last year, the 11 DEA Divisions participating in Project Wave Breaker seized a combined total of 2,316 kilograms of fentanyl (more than a billion potentially lethal doses).
- The seizure of fentanyl-laced pills along the Southwest Border increased more than 89 percent from January 2019 to December 2020.
Project Wave Breaker aims to reduce the amount of fentanyl coming across the Southwest Border, reduce crime and violence associated with drug trafficking, and ultimately save lives by reducing the demand for illicit fentanyl.
For resources and additional information on fentanyl and other illicit drugs, visit www.dea.gov/divisions/facts-about-fentanyl.
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