Tri-DENT agents deal with heroin, fentanyl
Tri-County Drug Enforcement Narcotics Team (Tri-DENT) agents seized millions of dollars of illegal narcotics in 2017 in Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam counties.
Tom Smith, chief of the Mendota Police Department and chairman of Tri-DENT's advisory board, said, "Tri-DENT is working very hard and has been very busy the last several years."
"Heroin still seems to be a problem in the Illinois Valley as well as the nation, and the increase of fentanyl included in the heroin has caused even a greater problem for our communities," said the Tri-DENT commander, who doesn't want his name released due to his undercover work.
"In 2017, Tri-DENT has seen a steady increase in fentanyl-laced heroin, at the street level, in many of our controlled heroin purchases," the commander added. "Tri-DENT has also seen an increase of fentanyl being trafficked on the interstate."
Due to the increase in fentanyl being mixed with heroin, Tri-DENT agents have had to use respirators and special latex gloves handling contraband seized during arrests due to the toxicity of fentanyl that can damage those who touch it with their bare hands or breathe it in, the commander said.
When large seizures of illegal narcotics are made, samples are sent to the Illinois State Police for testing instead of agents handling the packages themselves, he said.
Two arrests made during 2017 in Bureau County on Interstate 80 illustrate the commander's point about the increase usage of fentanyl being included in heroin.
Agents stopped a 2017 Nissan Altima with California registration for speeding and a lane violation on I-80 in Bureau County near mile marker 71 at 2:03 p.m. Oct. 18. After the Tri-DENT K9 alerted narcotic odors coming from inside the vehicle, a search located seven kilos of purported heroin (15.4 pounds) and nine vacuum-sealed bags containing about 47,000 pills of purported fentanyl.
Agents also found three kilos (6.6 pounds) of fentanyl located in a hidden area in the rear deck of a vehicle on Interstate 80 in Bureau County going from California to New York on July 7, 2016.
One kilo of heroin can range in value from $80,000 to $120,000 per kilo (or $560,000 to $840,000 for the seven kilos). When the heroin is broken down to grams and tenth of grams as commonly sold on the street, one kilo can net up to $300,000. As for the fentanyl (in pill form), the street price is $20-$30 a pill, making the seizure of 47,000 pills worth about $940,000 to $1,410,000.
"Tri-DENT is determined to continue to provide a service to the citizens of the Illinois Valley in its pursuit of illegal narcotic dealers and traffickers," said the commander. "Tri-DENT continues to work together with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to control the spread of illegal narcotics in our communities."
Heroin accounted for 38 percent (up eight arrests from 2016) of Tri-DENT's 88 arrests in 2017. Other arrests involved cocaine (27 percent of them, up 14 arrests from 2016), cannabis (19 percent, down 11 arrests from 2016) and methamphetamine, LSD and prescription melds, which were nearly the same at 16 percent in 2017 as compared to 2016 (with the exception of methamphetamine, increasing by four arrests).
Tri-DENT consists of officers from LaSalle, Streator, Princeton, Oglesby and Mendota police departments along with LaSalle, Bureau and Putnam County sheriff's offices.