DENVER — Denver’s police department announced it will create a specialized investigative unit to curb the rise in fentanyl abuse in the city.
The Fentanyl Investigations Team will be made up of a sergeant and five detectives reassigned from the marijuana unit within the department’s vice and narcotics section.
Police tell Denver7 the mission of the team will be “two-pronged”: disrupting drug trafficking organizations, and identifying dealers who cause overdose deaths.
The creation of the fentanyl unit comes amid a dramatic rise of fentanyl distribution and use in Denver. Police say they investigated 1,724 suspected fentanyl cases in 2022 – up from 286 two years earlier.
DPD reported a 404% increase in the amount of fentanyl recovered between 2020 and 2021. In 2022, that number still more than doubled in 2022, to more than 130 pounds.
Just two milligrams of fentanyl – an amount small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil – is considered a lethal dose of the drug.
“Fentanyl is ruining people’s lives,” Denver PD spokesman Aaron Rebeterano said. “It’s leaving carnage in its wake. You can drive up and down the streets and see people utilizing it.”
Meanwhile, the sergeant and five detectives could be reassigned from the marijuana unit because of a 63% decrease in marijuana-related complaints, like illegal growing operations, in 2022.
“We’re at a mitigation stage when it comes to black market marijuana,” Rebeterano said.
Rebeterano said the department hopes to see an increase in fentanyl seizures and arrests in the short term, and ultimately a decrease in those numbers – particularly in overdose deaths – in the long term.
San Diego’s police department has a similar fentanyl team from which DPD will take best practices, Rebeterano said. The structure of the unit, however, is unique to Denver.