Customs Officers At JFK Find Themselves On The Front Line In The Opioid Crisis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Record amounts of synthetic opioids are pouring into the country through the mail and private couriers, most of it is coming from China.

As CBS2’s Tony Dokoupil explained, some are calling airports like JFK the front line in the opioid crisis.

‘Spike’ is one of the newest tools in the hunt for illegal opioids, riding the conveyor belt as an officer fills it with suspicious packages — in this case all from China.

To show how important dogs are to the mission, the officers put fentanyl on as a training aid.

“Incredibly important because the work that a canine can do in an hour is what it would take an officer over eight hours to complete,” U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Port Director, Frank Russo said.

Russo runs field operations at John f. Kennedy Airport where seizures of fentanyl nearly tripled to more than 80 packages in the past fiscal year.

“What we are seizing here is hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

Anything flagged by dogs or pulled by agents is searched by hand on a table. Fentanyl is so toxic that officers wear gloves and masks to avoid accidental contact.

This time it wasn’t fentanyl, but GBL which is commonly used as a date rape drug.

“Just a little bit of this mixed in a drink can disable an individual,” Russo said.

One room over, there was fentanyl from China and Hong Kong.

“This is absolutely typical. Most of our seizures, actually all of our seizures have come from China and Hong Kong this year,” Russo said.

The products are addressed to locations all around the country.

Moments after entering the room, there was a discovery; 35 grams of fentanyl were found.

“It’s incredibly deadly,” Russo said.

Potent enough to knock out several adults.

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