In a concerted effort from federal and state agencies to take heroin distributors off the street and capture two men connected with two overdose deaths in Tuscaloosa early this year, federal agencies made a string of arrests early Monday morning.
The goal was to try and stem the growing flow of heroin in the Northern District of Alabama which has seen a spike in heroin-related deaths in Jefferson, Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties since 2008.
Five years ago 15 people died from heroin overdoses in those three counties. Last year, however, 83 people in those same areas died from overdoses. The arrest roundup, which led to the arrests of 50 people who were indicted over the last six months, was also part on an ongoing effort to track the sources and distributors of heroin in the tri-county area.
“Drug dealers in our community have shifted their business to selling heroin, which is highly addictive,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a press release. “This shift has led to skyrocketing overdose death rates among young people.”
Two men charged in connection with two overdose deaths in Tuscaloosa early this year were among those sought by drug agents, who had 40 suspects in custody late Monday, with more arrests pending. Arrests were made in cities ranging from Hoover to Gardendale to Bessemer.
Vance said authorities hope to work with community leaders to raise awareness of the risks of using heroin. “This is a communitywide issue that parents, educators and medical professionals need to be aware of, along with law enforcement,” Vance said.
The two men who died of overdoses in Tuscaloosa, one 20, the other 28, died in the same apartment complex within a month of each other. Authorities believe the heroin that killed them was distributed in Birmingham.