Local, state, and federal government agencies are celebrating a massive drug bust on Thursday that involved police ramming an armored vehicle through the front door of a private residence in New York.
The bust, which followed a year-long investigation and was connected to 106 arrests this week, occurred in Massena, New York. It was one of twenty raids in the area conducted on Thursday, according to Massena Village Police Chief Adam J. Love.
“We hit 20 houses in the village of Massena and currently picked up 31 people,” Love said Thursday, the Watertown Daily Times, a local outlet, reported. By the end of the day, authorities had arrested 90 individuals throughout New York state, including the towns of Ogdensburg and Gouverneur.
The year-long investigation leading up to these raids was the collaborative work of local and state police, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As the Watertown Daily Times summarized:
“In two indictments filed by the state Attorney General’s office, 106 people are named in a total of 168 counts including charges of conspiracy, criminal possession and criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminally using drug paraphernalia, hindering prosecution, operating as a major trafficker, weapons possession, possessing stolen property and hindering prosecution.”
At least one suspect arrested in the operation faces up to 50 years behind bars.
In one of the Massena raids, police used a Bearcat to plow through the home of Travis O’Neil — who is now charged with a slew of conspiracy, drug trafficking, and weapons charges — after they reportedly waited nearly an hour for the suspect to open the door. It is unclear why an armored vehicle was necessary in lieu of a traditional battering ram — in a related raid, the latter was used — but police apparently told O’Neill they wanted to make their arrest without conflict after tearing through his front door.
“We are now giving you an opportunity to resolve this situation, Travis,” police were heard [saying] in one video, warning Mr. O’Neill and anyone else in the building,” the Watertown Daily Times noted. “This is your opportunity to come to the rear of the residence. We do not want to harm anyone. If you are in that house right now, come to the rear of the residence.”
Neighbors expressed satisfaction at the raid. As one resident said, ““We have to live here. They have been investigating this for about a year, parking Hummers out in front of the house. It was like advertising. I’m just glad it is over.”
The drugs in question included cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl, the latest deadly opioid to hit the streets of the United States. While most Americans can agree that these drugs are dangerous and more should be done to reduce their use, the tactics used by the multitude of agencies in Thursday’s arrests are proven failures.
As Anti-Media has pointed out, the DEA continuously wages drug busts across the country — and despite the agency’s relentless efforts, the drugs continue to flow through communities across the United States. Heroin use, for example, has increased five-fold over the last decade. This has come in spite of the increase in criminal enforcement.
Using SWAT-like tactics, law enforcement around the country has taken the military strategies — originally intended to quell riots and terrorism — and warped their already questionable intended use into day-to-day efforts to enforce drug laws.
But drug use has not stopped, nor has drug trafficking. Investing over a year to take down even a massive drug operation like the one in New York this week ultimately amounts to plugging one hole on a sinking ship as new ones spring open.
For forty years, the United States government has attempted to use ‘law and order’ policies to quell addiction and the ‘black market’ created through prohibition. But, if anything, the raid this week does nothing more than prove those tactics have failed.
Much of this dynamic is due to a two-pronged government approach: on one hand, prohibition itself drives drug addicts toward the dangerous black market, which is all the more unaccountable because it is forced underground by the government’s heavy-handed and ineffective tactics, leading to decreased transparency and accountability; on the other hand, the problem of addiction has been exacerbated by the federal government’s ongoing approval of dangerous pharmaceutical opioids, one of which is fentanyl. In fact, numerous heroin addicts first became hooked on prescription painkillers before switching over to heroin. As the government-run National Institute on Drug Abuse has acknowledged:
“A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions.”
Despite these systemic failures — and mounting evidence that decriminalizing drug use is a viable solution — the Trump administration is preparing to double down on criminal enforcement, working to re-impose mandatory minimums for drug crimes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has touted these criminal enforcement tactics, failing to acknowledge the decades of evidence proving they do not solve the problem of drug abuse — and law enforcement continues to follow suit, as does a significant portion of the American public.
As Massena Police Chief Love said of their Thursday operation, “Everything went well. There were reactions with community members clapping, it was positive.”
“We’re not going to stop and we are going to do everything we can to make Massena drug-free,” he also said.