Alameda deputies make big fentanyl bust in high school parking lot

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Alameda County sheriff’s deputies have arrested four suspects and seized 15 pounds of fentanyl, a kilogram of heroin, and $139,000 in cash in an after-hours bust at McClymonds High School parking lot in Oakland.

The department was quick to point out that the bust had nothing to do with the high school, but that the suspects may be facing enhanced charges because the arrests came within 1,000 feet of a school.

It also was another sign of the Bay Area’s massive problem with fentanyl use.

On Monday, parents of a 15-month-old girl were arrested in Santa Rosa when fentanyl exposure was suspected in the toddler’s death.

“Fentanyl’s everywhere right now … literally everywhere,” their neighbor Johnie Costa told KPIX.

Last month,  Alameda deputies seized 92 pounds of fentanyl, shut down a manufacturing lab and took a suspect into custody, but admitted the bust likely only put a small dent in trafficking of the deadly substance in the Bay Area, particularly to dealers headed into San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.

“What happens is, Alameda County, here in the East Bay, we are supplying a lot of the fentanyl ends up on the street in San Francisco, which has led to a lot of the problems in that city,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Kelly in the wake of the April bust.

“I would equate it (the April bust) to shutting down a gas station in a city, you’re not going to impact the supply chains that’s in existence out there.”  

But the busts do offer a look into a supply chain that is common knowledge on the street. San Francisco’s notorious open-air drug market is largely supplied by distribution centers in the East Bay, usually receiving product from beyond our borders.

“From China, then down through Mexico,” Kelly explained. “Through the cartel trafficking rings, up into the United States.”

Beau Kilmer, Ph.D. of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center said, “I don’t know what the purity is for the powder that was just seized there in Alameda County, but if you look at the seizure data from the product that seems coming across the border from Mexico, it’s maybe, roughly, 10% pure fentanyl.”

Kilmer said the April bust was huge, possibly enough to supply 1,000 addicts for one year. It still may not change the market.

“These markets react very quickly,” he explained. “A lot is going to depend on how much product is available at other stash houses. How quickly can you get other product from Mexico.”

And that is one more challenge posed by fentanyl. On top of its potency and low price point, it is very easy to come up with more.

“As opposed to when we talk about cocaine or heroin, where it has to be grown and harvested, fentanyl does take that long to produce,” Kilmer said, “You can produce a fair amount of it in the course of days or weeks.”

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