Suffolk police Thursday said they’ve seized more than $1 million and arrested more than 155 drug dealers this year — the result of amped up enforcement efforts aimed at combating the county’s opiate epidemic.
Three busts Thursday led to the seizure of thousands of dollars in cash and narcotics, investigators said, adding that they’ve executed more than twice as many drug search warrants in 2016 as they did during the same period last year.
“We’re going after all the dealers in our community, big and small,” said Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini during a Thursday news conference at police headquarters in Yaphank, where authorities released the data on drug seizures and arrests.
Sini linked the spike in drug seizures, arrests and warrant executions to the Suffolk police department’s new drug tip line, 631-852-6272.
Since the tip line’s March 31 launch, police have received 282 calls from citizens with information about drug sales, dealers and other information on trafficking, officials said.
On Thursday alone, police officials said, they arrested four people on narcotics-related charges at three Suffolk County residences and seized a variety of illegal drugs from the locations.
- At a Ronkonkoma home used for drug dealing, investigators said they seized 240 bags of heroin, 25 grams of cocaine, prescription drugs as well as a shotgun, 9-mm bullets and ammunition magazines.
- In Huntington Station, police nabbed 64 bags of heroin, prescription drugs and nearly $10,000 in drug money, officials said.
- At a Patchogue residence, police said, investigators found 26 grams of cocaine, more than 2,500 Xanax pills, 350 grams of marijuana, 49 grams of wax marijuana and more than $5,500 in drug money.
- Arrested Thursday in the three busts were Edward Solomon, 26, of Ronkonkoma; Denys Meyer, 44, of Mastic Beach; Danielle Desposito, 34, of Miller Place; and Philip Paul, 21, who’s resident was not provided. All face a range of charges, including criminal possession of a controlled substance, police said. Another suspect, Eric Oquendo, was arrested on related drug charges Wednesday. His age and hometown were not provided by police.
- Attorneys for the suspects could not immediately be reached for comment.
- They are expected to be arraigned at District Court in Central Islip.
- An alarming increase in opiate deaths in Suffolk as well as the large amount of cheap heroin flooding the region spurred the heightened enforcement efforts, police said.
- A record 442 people died of opiate overdoses on Long Island in 2015 — up from 403 a year earlier — with heroin, oxycodone and the highly potent painkiller fentanyl responsible for a majority of those deaths, the latest records show.
- Overall, opiates killed at least 232 people in Suffolk and 210 in Nassau last year, according to data compiled by the county medical examiners’ offices and analyzed by Newsday.
- In Suffolk, the 54 fentanyl deaths recorded in 2015 were more than double the previous year’s total of 24, records show, while heroin continues to claim more lives in the county than any other opiate, records show.
- At least 337 people died from heroin in Suffolk during the 60-month period ending Dec. 31, 2013 — the most in the state during that span, data shows. That’s more than in the Bronx, which recorded 216 such deaths, the second-highest number over that period; Queens, which recorded 174; Manhattan, which recorded 156; Brooklyn, with 151; and Nassau, with 128.
- Fatal overdoses caused by opiates have risen dramatically across the U.S. in recent years, driven by a surge in painkiller addiction and a flood of drugs from Mexico.
- Treatment experts said the 155 dealer arrests in Suffolk this year are a step in the right direction, but not a solution to the local epidemic.
- “These arrests are phenomenal news, but without making some headway in reducing the demand for heroin, I worry that these 155 dealers will be replaced with new ones,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, chief executive of the Family & Children’s Association in Mineola and a leading Long Island expert in the treatment of substance abuse.
- “I would love to see at least part of the $1 million seized from dealers spent on drug abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs so that we can, by attacking both supply and demand simultaneously, eliminate the marketplace altogether.”