The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading a nationwide operation to deal with the rising level of opioids sold through the dark web.
The drugs, which are shipped by mail to many places, have raised a red flag on the level of opioid usage in the United States.
In collaboration with the United States Postal Services, a tight check-up of all package deliveries is being undertaken to make sure the drugs not arrive to their intended destinations.
The crackdown is already beginning to see results in New Jersey, where fatal overdose rates are particularly high in 2018.
An Inside View: New Jersey Police Ramp up Drug Crackdown
As darknet markets continue to grow and offer an even broader range of illegal goods and services, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is expected to worsen.
Special agents from the FBI are working extra hard to stop the opioid menace that has killed thousands of people in the country.
Earlier this year, the FBI launched Operation Disarray, a crackdown initiative that targets suspects of darknet opioid trafficking.
As part of the operation, agents conducted door-to-door visits to New Jersey residents that were suspected to be either opioid buyers or sellers.
The program was also meant to spread awareness and education about substance abuse prevention.
According to Bradley Cohen, the acting special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, New Jersey, the law enforcement officials had a clear idea of what the drug traffickers are up to. He also said that if they need any assistance in stopping, the agency is there to offer help.
Another similar program, termed Operation Heading Back, led to a total of 28 arrests from 33 raids in Ocean County, New Jersey.
The law enforcement officials heading the takedown said the drug operation was the largest of its kind throughout the county in recent history.
As the operation put the traffickers on notice, a lot is expected to come out of it with known traffickers arrested.
The local FBI officials in New Jersey are working very closely with the postal services to narrow their interests on targeted locations like Monroe Township, Mount Laurel and Hillsborough.
In most cases, there is a high likelihood that unknown drugs are bought online and shipped via the postal services.
This can cause the business to be more dangerous than in-person drug sales where a dealer wants to maintain a good reputation for delivering pure substances.
According to a data from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the number of drug-related deaths in the state stood at 953 by the end of April.
In Ocean County alone, about 30 people have died from drug overdoses in the first three months of 2018, said county prosecutor Joseph Coronato, who has been tracking the number of overdose deaths reported by local police.
National Measures to Counter the Opioid Crisis
The U.S. is experiencing a sharp uptick in drug overdoses and deaths related to opioid consumption.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rising cases of fatal overdoses since 2016, when more than 63,000 people died—a 21.5 percent increase from previous years.
Nationally, online sales through the dark web is one of the primary modes of acquiring deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
It is the main reason why the FBI is heavily investing in experts to help fight the opioid epidemic and arrest online drug traffickers.
The current administration has set aside a budget to control the opioid menace in the country.
President Donald Trump has proposed hard-hitting strategies to counter drug trafficking, even suggesting a death penalty for drug dealers.
With the help of the FBI and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), more arrests of drug traffickers—mostly those exploiting the postal services—are expected in the coming months.
A lot of drug traffickers who previously transported their supply through the southern border with Mexico have ceased to use this method.
This is after different security measures to stop the drug traffickers were put in place by the administration.
The Feds’ Predicament
As the FBI narrows down on dark web users, there are a few barriers expected to arise.
The most significant challenge in fighting the online drug purchases is a lack of proper skills to counter the Tor-based markets.
This made it difficult for law enforcement to locate and bring down the servers which are hidden and encrypted by Tor.
Until the necessary skills are offered to the law enforcement, it will remain a hurdle for many of the officers in navigating the dark web to arrest the drug traffickers.
The other challenge is the vastness of packages to be dealt with in the postal services against the number of security officers to inspect them.
Per each given day, a lot of packages destined for different locations in the U.S. are encountered—some are genuine and clean, whereas others contain illegal substances.
Recently, drug traffickers are devising new methods for shipping the drugs after the customs officers have intercepted an increase in postal packages.
Humans and animals are being exploited as an alternative, where the drug traffickers force them to swallow a wrapped supply of drugs in order to evade detection by customs authorities at international airports.
Other challenges come from the dynamic nature of the darknet markets, where drug vendors often move their businesses from one site to another.
It makes the work of the feds more challenging to follow the activity of the market and maybe go for their catch.
Another major challenge facing the feds in their work against opioid drug sales is in the process of shipping.
Buyers do not use their name and home address to receive a package. Instead, they use a pseudonym and an address that’s not associated with their real location, such as a rented building.
This creates a chain of addresses the feds are to follow before they arrest the chief suspect behind the activities.
Despite the many challenges, the law enforcement agencies are not giving up in fighting drug dealers who are hiding in the corridors of the darknet markets.
As the specialized agencies continue working under immense pressure, more arrests to the drug traffickers is expected.