New Jersey Focuses On Truck Inspections As First Line Defense Against Opioid Crisisby Jana Ritter - Published: 3/20/2017
Trucks traveling on Interstate 78 between New Jersey and Pennsylvania are getting more thorough inspections as part of New Jersey’s first line of defense against the state's opioid drug epidemic. A simple problem with a driver’s logbook or any suspicion by the officer is enough to lead to a deeper inspection.
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While only a fraction of the truck inspections conducted by the state police’s mobile safe freight unit each year turn up drugs, officials say it’s still a major part of cutting into the supply side of a drug epidemic that claimed more than 1,500 lives in 2015. One highway weigh station at the Greenwich Township stop has already taken more than 100 kilograms of heroin out of drug distribution networks last year and confiscated 27 kilograms of cocaine and 1,054 pounds of pot. Police estimate the drugs’ total value was more than $21 million and that it's more than six times the amount seized in the previous four years combined.
“This is the supply side of the distribution chain and it’s very important that we act as a deterrent for what comes into this state in the illicit drug trade. We’re talking about the integrity of the trucking industry here and rooting out those individuals that are using the trucking industry to engage in the illicit narcotics trade,” says Col. Rick Fuentes, the head of the state police. The Drug Enforcement Administration says the country’s interstate highway system plays a major role in getting drugs from Mexico to urban centers and the trucks stopped on I-78 are often headed to drug houses in New York to be repacked for sale on the street.
State Trooper James Agens has been awarded for making two of the busts at the Greenwich Township weigh station last year. He explains how during one stop he became suspicious when he noticed the driver had two cellphones and that one wouldn’t stop ringing. Then he noticed log book discrepancies, which further prompted him to search the truck. Him and his partner found four boxes that didn’t match the rest of the cargo and sure enough the boxes contained 64 kilograms of powdered heroin and another 10 kilograms of cocaine. “I am sure for every one that we get there are probably 20 plus that go by us,” says Agens.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino says the job being done by state police is one of the answers to stop the drug supply coming into the community and destroying lives. “When you look at an operation like this, you say it’s really searching for a needle in a haystack, but because it’s connected to the rest of our operations, there’s intelligence that flows through this stop as well,” he says.
“The truckers need to know that we’re inspecting with the most aggressive means possible. And we’re making a lot of stops and a lot of arrests.”