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'Operation Wildfire' nets 46 drug dealers in county

06/30/2017 12:17PM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

More than 40 drug heroin and opioid dealers are out of business after a team effort by Chester County police and detectives.

The success of “Operation Wildfire” was reviewed last week by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, who said drug dealing charges have been filed against 46 people during the eight-week sweep. Police netted heroin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin, morphine, MDMA, diazepam and Xanax, along with crack cocaine and crystal meth.

Hogan said the undercover drug buys occurred throughout the county. “Operation Wildfire” was a joint effort between the Chester County Detectives Drug & Organized Crime Unit, as well as the Parkesburg Borough Police Department, Tredyffrin Township Police Department, Spring City Police Department, Phoenixville Borough Police Department, Oxford Borough Police Department, and Downingtown Borough Police Department.

“Sometimes you have to start a wildfire to stop a wildfire,” Hogan said during a press briefing at the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester. “We wanted to stop them in their tracks. We also wanted a snapshot in time of what Chester County looks like in terms of heroin and opioids.”

Hogan said that Chester County overdose deaths spiked from 60 in 2015 to 97 in 2016. Fifty more people have died in the first six months of 2017, he said. Hogan blamed the increase on drug dealers adding fentanyl to heroin to increase its potency -- to often lethal levels.

Hogan said officers found and arrested dealers in every region of Chester County. Some of the dealers were addicts themselves, he said.

The confiscated prescription drugs included Oxycodone and morphine, but also Suboxone, which is used to combat the sickness that occurs with heroin use and withdrawal. Most of the drugs come into the country through Philadelphia, Hogan said, but some in southern Chester County were traced to Wilmington, Del.

While doctors have cut back on the number of opioids they typically prescribe in an attempt to stem the crisis, that action has increased the use of heroin by addicts. It will take time for the trend to decline, Hogan said.

“This is not something we will turn around quickly,” he said. “The only way we can survive this is by working together.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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