BALTIMORE (WJZ)– In the streets of Charm City and across America, the opioid epidemic has a grip like never before.
Maryland is in top five of all states in opioid overdose deaths. 1,500 people died in the first six months of last year.
“This is the trans-shipment point–Baltimore,” DEA agent and 32-year-veteran Karl Colder said. “There’s a great effort going on in Baltimore to change the culture. If you lay Maryland, for example, on a table, and you look at all the highways–it’s like an artery.”
That artery starts with Baltimore, what many consider the epicenter of the problem with drugs making their way in from Mexico.
“As far away as the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia–you have people coming into Baltimore to purchase heroin,” Colder added.
He calls it a different age because of the synthetics, especially fentanyl, which can now be bought online and is far more cheaper than heroin.
“50 to 100 times more potent than heroin itself,” he said.
A deputy in Harford County became ill after being exposed to fentanyl on the job.
Colder says the DEA is working hand-in-hand with law enforcement and agencies across the state, leaving no stone unturned.
“All it takes is one piece of information and agencies sharing information. Thirty-three kilograms of fentanyl, which could have killed everybody in the state.”
Following the paper trail of pain clinics, a recent raid in Towson of a center that had 4,000 patients, along with a national take-back day that collected 12,000 pounds of prescription drugs.
But with drugs comes violence. Gangs in Baltimore are dealing the lethal doses and fighting over clients.
“Different cliques, crews, gangs–rival gangs fighting against each other for territory,” Colder added.
With the DEA focused on training, education treatment and prevention, there’s hope that a turnaround is within reach.