Buncombe County fentanyl-trafficking charges break record in 2021 (2024)

Andrew Jones|Asheville Citizen Times

The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office and Asheville Police Department in 2021 made arrests with 215 charges related to drug trafficking, including a record number related to fentanyl,an opioid painkiller many times more potent than heroin,according to recent reports.

Of the 126 arrest charges made by the Sheriff's Office, 81 were related to fentanyl trafficking, a recordthe office said, barreling past the previous record, 37 charges in 2020.

Methamphetaminecharges also have risen in the past two years. BCSO said there were 38 meth traffickingcharges in 2021 and 42 in 2020.

In 2020 Asheville police made 63 charges related to opium or heroin trafficking in 2021. Combined, APD made 20 charges related to meth trafficking in 2020 and 2021.

Fentanyl often is mixed with heroin,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Fentanyl has almost exclusively replaced heroin as the opioid most commonly sold by drug dealers in Buncombe County," BCSO said in a Jan. 25 news release. By comparison, the release stated that"less than 5% of the opioids seized by weight by the Sheriff’s Office in 2012was heroin."

Fentanylis "a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine," according to the CDC.

Boyle column: Opioid crisis, overdoses still bringing heartache and deaths

It's also considered a major contributor to overdose deaths in the United States.

According to some of the most recent data published on a Buncombe County Register of Deeds project called "Exploring the Opioid Epidemic," the county had 104 overdose-related deaths in 2019, 87 in 2018 and 124 in 2017.

Statewide from 2000-20 more than 28,000 people died from overdoses, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

In2020 alone, more than eight North Carolina residents died each day to overdoses.

A portion of Buncombe's strategy to prevent these deaths is law enforcement.

“In May of 2020, Sheriff Miller directed the Buncombe County Anti-Crime Task Force to focus their resources on identifying, investigating, arresting and prosecuting those individuals who are engaging in high-level drug trafficking operations in Buncombe County," BCSO Maj.John Ledford said.

Prosecuting large-scale dealers who profit on the dependency of others helps to disrupt the flow of these narcotics into the county, he added.

"For high-level drug traffickers, let me be absolutely clear," Sheriff Quentin Miller said."We are not going to allow fentanyl to be brought into our community without the Sheriff’s Office doing our best to arrest those responsible for distributing this poison.”

$21 million in opioid settlements: First lump could hit Buncombe County early 2022

Leaders also are fighting the addiction epidemic on the recovery front.

“For individuals who are struggling with addiction to opioids and are trying to get their life back together we want to give those community members a chance to find sobriety,"Miller said in the news statement.

At the Buncombe County Detention Center, that's done through a Medication Assisted Treatment drug treatment program.

"We’re proud to offer this program to our community members who are ready to enter into treatment," Miller said in the release.

State's deadliest jail: Buncombe has worst death rate, Citizen Times investigation shows

Buncombe Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara said efforts like the expanding paramedic program, a consolidating 911 system, a forthcoming mobile care clinic and the county's numerous shelters and clinics are vital to combating addiction and supporting recovery in 2022.

"This is a community-wide issue, challenge, problem and opportunity," Beach-Ferrara told the Citizen Times.

"County government and the Sheriff's Office are really highly engaged on this set of issues. The city is becoming increasingly engaged around the high-access shelter. We work actively with providers, whether its folks atMountain Area Health and Education Center ... or Asheville Buncombe Christian Community Ministry," she said.

Outside of programming, she also emphasized the importance of simple conversations.

"There's still such silence and stigma surrounding the crisis of addiction," she said. "And yet so many people haveexperienced it themselves or someone very dear to them has."

Beach-Ferrara encouraged people to talk to each other and to local leadership by showing up to public forums and being a part of planning processes.

"We have critical community conversations on the horizon," she said.

Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow or reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter. Email him at arjones@citizentimes.com.

Buncombe County fentanyl-trafficking charges break record in 2021 (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jamar Nader

Last Updated:

Views: 5514

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jamar Nader

Birthday: 1995-02-28

Address: Apt. 536 6162 Reichel Greens, Port Zackaryside, CT 22682-9804

Phone: +9958384818317

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Scrapbooking, Hiking, Hunting, Kite flying, Blacksmithing, Video gaming, Foraging

Introduction: My name is Jamar Nader, I am a fine, shiny, colorful, bright, nice, perfect, curious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.