BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An elite Harford County task force is gaining international recognition for its progressive approach of helping addicts, while gaining the intel it needs to take down the dealers.
WJZ was able to get rare access to the front lines of this fight.
WJZ cameras captured the dramatic moments on Baltimore streets, as the task force members move in on a suspected drug dealer. Once in custody, officers searched the suspect’s house.
This is what they found:
The squad is made up of the best of the best — officers with specialized training and full federal authority to cross city, county, and state lines to go wherever they need to in order to get some of the most dangerous criminals off the streets.
“Our main objective is to do what we did here tonight, is to track it down to the dealers that are providing the heroin and fentanyl to our citizens up in Harford County, especially the ones that have lost their lives,” said Captain Lee Dunbar.
Cpt. Dunbar and his unit work day and night in a never-ending battle against the opioid epidemic sweeping Maryland and the country.
This year, in Harford County alone, 320 people overdosed on opioids. Of those, 77 died. Overdoses are up 73 percent compared to last year.
WJZ followed the task force to Baltimore, miles away from Harford County. Why is the Harford County unit in Baltimore?
“What happens [in Baltimore], this is where the vast majority of our heroin and fentanyl is coming from,” Dunbar said. “The majority of our citizens that are suffering from this opioid addiction are coming down here to the city on a daily basis.”
WJZ got rare access, spending two nights with the task force. In addition to their bust in Baltimore, our cameras captured one along I-95 in Harford County following a traffic stop.
Traffic stops are the backbone of major investigations into the ever-growing problem of opioids on our streets.
In this case, a vehicle went into Baltimore, a deal was apparently made, and drugs were brought back to the streets of Harford County.
“In plain view was this packet with gel caps,” one officer said. [Reporter: “This is death right here.”] “And depending on the user, maybe even partial of one of those capsules could kill them.”
The task force is responsible for 55 felony arrests so far this year for distribution, possession with intent to distribute and/or conspiracy to distribute heroin and or fentanyl analogs.
They have seized 2,400 grams of suspected heroin and/or fentanyl this year. The 5.4 pounds of drugs have a street value of approximately $264,000.
For many of these officers, this is a personal mission. Almost everyone on this task force has been touched by the opioid epidemic.
“My family has not been immune from it either,” Dunbar said. “We have guys where it’s hitting very, very close to home in our agency. And it becomes personal for us because we’re responding to every one of these overdoses.”
These officers are gaining international attention for their aggressive, innovative approach.
The BBC and Netflix are featuring segments on the game-changing work of this unit.
“We want to send a message up in Harford County: You’re dealing drugs to our citizens,” Dunbar said. “You’re killing our citizens with the drugs you’re putting in their hands down here. We will come down here and lock you up and prosecute you to the full extent of the law.”