By: Mike Anderson

York Regional Police have charged 23 people with drug trafficking and other criminal offences for distributing fentanyl in Georgina.

The arrests follow a public warning about the dangers of fentanyl use issued by YRP in October, after police responded to 14 overdose calls between July 1 and September 18, which resulted in two overdose deaths.

Project Homecoming involved six full-time investigators from the #3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau, based in Sutton.

Between October 1 and November 4, police executed five search warrants and seized 77 grams of fentanyl, along with other drugs, including cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, hydromorphone pills and cannabis.

“We definitely made an impact,” said Detective Darren Burd, the project’s lead investigator.

“When we executed search warrants, we got a lot of feedback. They knew we were targeting people selling fentanyl.”

According to Det. Burd, the project did not take down a single drug ring but focused on various groups and individuals in the community who were distributing fentanyl and other opioids.

“We targeted them for a month and executed as many search warrants as possible and arrested as many involved around it,” said Det. Burd, who added that the confidential tips obtained through Crime Stoppers were instrumental in getting judicial approval for search warrants.

According to a YRP media release, fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine. If mistaken for another less-potent opioid like morphine, heroin or oxycodone, overdoses can easily occur.

Two milligrams of pure fentanyl (the size of about four grains of salt) is enough to kill the average adult. If combined with alcohol and other drugs, including prescription medications, the risk of a fatal outcome increases.

Depending on how it’s administered, the user may not notice the difference until it’s too late.

A fentanyl overdose can be treated with the antidote naloxone, which is available free-of-charge at most pharmacies. However, according to police, immediate medical attention is still required.

Det. Burd said the while stepped-up enforcement disrupts fentanyl trafficking, the opioid crisis is a health issue that isn’t going away.

“It’s a health concern number one. We need to continue to stay on it. With every person we deal with in an arrest, we talk to them about counselling and addiction services. Because we understand it’s a horrible addiction,” he said.

“We know that it’s going to be a continual problem, but whatever we can do to limit it within the community and prevent new people from trying it, that’s our biggest goal.”

Det. Burd sees education as a big part of the solution.

“Education is paramount. We need to educate the people that haven’t used it that it’s not worth trying. We also need to educate the people that are addicted to it, that there are services out there can help them come off it.”

For more information on how agencies across York Region are working together to reduce opioid harms, read the Opioid Action Plan.

Anyone with information on opioid trafficking should contact the York Regional Police #3 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext.7341, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.

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