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Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jill Oliveira  651-793-2726
Scott Wasserman  651-201-7571
March 16, 2016
Seven Dead of Suspected Heroin Overdoses
Regional deaths part of a growing statewide heroin problem
ST. PAUL — A sudden spike in suspected heroin-related deaths is cause for alarm, and speaks to a bigger problem across the state. The Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and Office of Justice Programs (OJP) are warning the public about the recent overdoses. Narcotics investigators believe heroin circulating now, which may be laced with other narcotics, is responsible for at least seven deaths and more than a dozen non-fatal overdoses over the past few weeks.
Law enforcement agencies are reporting suspected heroin overdoses in nearly a dozen north central Minnesota communities, including Hibbing, Virginia, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Cass Lake, Dillworth, Marble, Beltrami County and Mille Lacs County.
To further understand the scope of the problem, the BCA is working through its Minnesota Fusion Center to gather information from local law enforcement agencies about heroin overdoses and BCA narcotics agents are working with agencies to try to identify the source of these drugs.
“BCA narcotics agents and our partner agencies are treating these cases as homicides,” said BCA Special Agent in Charge Sue Burggraf. "When we find these drug dealers we intend to charge them with third degree murder."
Heroin is a statewide problem
The problem in north central Minnesota can be echoed in every community across the state. Narcotics agents are reporting a significant jump in heroin seizures and sales all across Minnesota.
Statistics just released by OJP show Heroin seizures by the Violent Crime Enforcement Teams (VCETs) in 2015 reached 18 pounds, a 125 percent increase since 2011.
“Drugs are killing people across the state, causing a big burden in society for adults and especially youth,” said Brian Marquart, OJP statewide gang and drug coordinator. “We need to come together and report any drug activity so we can get the drugs out of the hands of dealers.”
“These tragic heroin overdoses are unfortunately part of a larger statewide opioid drug abuse problem that often begins with inappropriate use of prescription opioid pain relievers” said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger. "Prevention of addiction and inappropriate use of opioids requires a public health approach that includes looking at how we manage pain and community level factors that influence individual behaviors. The Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain announced by the CDC yesterday is a good example of an approach that can help us more effectively treat pain, promote health and reduce harms."
Drug Seizures on the Rise
The VCETs, which are partially funded by OJP, continued to take drugs off the street at an alarming rate in 2015.
For the second straight year, VCET investigators seized a record amount of methamphetamine and marijuana concentrates continued to be seized at a record rate.
2015 – 2011 VCET Stats
VCET Drug Seizures
229 lbs.
223 lbs
143 lbs
113 lbs
100 lbs
18 lbs
12 lbs
19 lbs
6 lbs
8 lbs
Marijuana Concentrates
27 lbs
8 lbs
.8 lbs
4.5 lbs
.4 lbs
Putting those numbers into perspective, VCETs took 82,120 doses of heroin and 416,280 doses of methamphetamine off the street last year.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides leadership and resources to reduce crime, improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and assist crime victims. To accomplish this, OJP administers grants; provides training and technical assistance; provides research and data; works to protect crime victims’ rights; and provides reparations benefits to victims of violent crime.
About the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) provides investigative and specialized law enforcement services to prevent and solve crimes in partnership with law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice agencies. Services include criminal justice training, forensic laboratory analysis, criminal histories and investigations.
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 |