On the one hand, police took $16,000 worth of heroin off the streets last week with a single traffic stop and the arrest of just one man.
On the other hand, demand for this dangerous street drug is such that just one man was caught driving around with $16,000 worth of heroin.
That is the good news news, bad news scenario law enforcement is left to ponder after the local seizure of such a large amount of heroin, the extremely addictive and volatile drug that is behind a nationwide epidemic of overdoses and deaths.
"It really is kind of a double-edged sword," said Glynn County Police Capt. David Hassler. "If they're bringing it here in those amounts, there's a need for it here."
Capt. Hassler is commander of the Brunswick-Glynn Narcotics Enforcement Team, the multi-agency group tasked with combatting the county's illegal drug trade. GBNET includes officers from the county and Brunswick police departments. GBNET made the large heroin bust Wednesday as part of an eight-month undercover drug sting operation that also included the Glynn County Sheriff's Office, the Camden County Sheriff's Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
Tyrone Bradley was arrested following a traffic stop in Camden County, where he allegedly was found to be in possession of the heroin. This was no chance encounter, Hassler said. A DEA agent accompanied Camden deputies during the traffic stop, which resulted from information obtained during the undercover investigation, Hassler said.
Bradley, 40, of Brunswick, remains in the Glynn County Detention Center on federal drug and firearms charges. Also arrested as a result of the investigation was James Bernard Culpepper, 38. The Brunswick resident also is jailed on drug and gun charges at the detention center. Culpepper's arrest followed the execution of a search warrant April 5 at 2212 Amherst St. in Brunswick.
Hassler anticipates further arrests of suspected local drug deals to occur. "The investigation is still ongoing," he said. "At some point there will be more people arrested, I would venture to say."
But the recent arrests speak as much to the county's overall drug abuse problem as to the alleged criminals who fill the orders, police said. Heroin was not all Bradley allegedly had to sell, Hassler said. Additionally, undercover agents allegedly purchased ecstasy, prescription opioid pills and cocaine from Bradley over the course of the investigation, Hassler said.
"As you can see from the drugs that were listed, there's heroin, ecstasy, cocaine," Hassler said. "There's no rhyme or reason to what they were selling. They kind of covered the gamut."
The illegal drug problem will remain as long the market is there, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said. The county's drug court, a diversionary program that seeks to address addiction and recovery issues of those arrested, can make a difference, he said. But it is not enough.
"The drug dealers would go away on their own if nobody was using the drugs," Doering said. "It's that simple. The suppliers will always be there to fill the demand."
And the most recent arrest indicates a growing local demand for heroin, which Hassler finds troubling. Heroin's recent rise parallels roughly with increasing restrictions on obtaining prescription opioid drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycontin pills, Hassler said. The street price has skyrocketed for the prescription pills that do slip through those increased legal obstacles.
Meanwhile, heroin has seen a resurgence on the street, filling the demand for an affordable, available opiate fix. However, most of the heroin circulating these days is cut with fentanyl, a highly-concentrated and extremely-powerful prescription opiate. In its prescription form, fentanyl is a liquid that comes in a time-released patch.
Heroin is routinely cut with fentanyl to help dealers stretch their product, and the mixture often proves deadly.
"Heroin is growing in popularity right now and that is due to the regulations that have been put on prescriptions medications," Hassler said "It has come into favor with the opiate crowd because it's easier to get. Our biggest concern is that they're cutting it with fentanyl. It basically has the same properties as heroin. And fentanyl, even in micro amounts, is fatal if ingested. It shuts down your respiratory system. And the amount of overdoses is just going through the roof."
Hassler saw it first hand last August while taking a law enforcement course in Ohio, where the heroin epidemic has long been entrenched.
"They have more troubles with heroin up there than they can shake a stick at," Hassler said. "It's real bad."
And then on Wednesday, local police seized $16,000 worth of heroin after a single traffic stop and the arrest of just one alleged Brunswick dope dealer.
"It's here," Hassler said. "It's a growing concern. We haven't had a real problem with it in the last few years. But now we're seeing heroin coming back into favor, and we're seeing more and more of it."