Police are targeting the fentanyl drug trade in the Lower Mainland, an initiative kick-started in October 2014 through a joint forces operation named Project Tainted. Recent spikes in fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths prompted a swift collaboration between the Vancouver Police Department, RCMP Federal Policing and the Burnaby RCMP.
Enforcement efforts were focused specifically on individuals and groups producing and distributing drugs laced with the deadly chemical. For the takedown of the Project, both the RCMP North Vancouver Detachment Strike Force and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit contributed resources vital to the successful searches and arrests.
“The addition of fentanyl into already dangerous street drugs is a relatively new trend, which has exposed the inconsistent and callous production processes within the criminal drug trade,” says VPD Superintendent Mike Porteous. “The swath of devastation and death that’s been left in the wake of fentanyl-laced drugs is unprecedented for local health authorities and police.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid or painkiller similar to heroin, but 50 to 100 times more toxic than other narcotics, was associated with one-quarter of over 300 overdose deaths in BC in 2014. Users had either knowingly or unknowingly consumed fentanyl that was mixed with a variety of other drugs.
Fentanyl has shown up in liquids, powders and pills, and can be masked in virtually any consumable product. Fentanyl-laced marijuana (EDIT: The VPD has not come across marijuana laced with fentanyl – there was an inaccuracy in this news release, which we later corrected), heroin, oxycodone and other party drugs, have resulted in the deaths of many occasional drug users. The drug does not discriminate, as overdoses have been seen in all segments of society.
“The goal of this project was to target those who were peddling poison in our communities, and to disrupt the local supply of fentanyl-laced drugs that were being distributed throughout the Lower Mainland and beyond,” says Chief Superintendent Kevin deBruyckere, head of the RCMP Federal Policing Program in BC.
Acting upon available intelligence, the joint investigative team aggressively pursued potential distributors of fentanyl-tainted products.
“Investigators gathered the evidence through traditional investigative strategies and formed the grounds to search vehicles, residences and storage lockers across the Lower Mainland,” says Chief Superintendent Dave Critchley, Officer in Charge of the Burnaby RCMP. “This end result is not just a significant achievement for the cities of Burnaby, Vancouver and North Vancouver, but for all of British Columbia.”
On February 17, 2015, Project Tainted culminated with the execution of 11 search warrants throughout Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver, in a coordinated effort by partner agencies, including the North Vancouver RCMP and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU).
- 7 vehicles
- $215,000 cash
- pill press
- 13,000 oxycodone
- 29,000 fentanyl pills
- 147,000 pills believed to be Alprazolam
- 503,000 coloured pills (yet to be analyzed)
- 9.5 kgs of crack cocaine
- 5.5 kgs of powdered cocaine
- 19.5 kgs of marijuana
- 1 kg of methamphetamine
- 3 kgs of hash
- .5 kg of heroin
- 2,200 flaps of heroin
- various other drugs including steroids and methamphetamine
- various drug paraphernalia
- 4 guns
- 2 replica guns
- 1 bulletproof vest
Eight people were arrested as a result of the project, with additional warrants being issued for suspects who were not located during the searches.
“The partnerships and collaboration of law enforcement resources in the Lower Mainland was critical to the success of this investigation and the coordinated take-down action,” says deBruyckere. “This project highlights the force-multiplying capabilities of such cooperative operations, which effectively served federal, provincial and multiple municipal initiatives.”
On March 2nd, police and health authorities launched Know Your Source? Be Drug Smart, an awareness campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl, and encourage those who choose to use, to do so with caution.
For more information about the dangers of fentanyl, please visit knowyoursource.ca.