TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Day after day, Border Patrol Agents and Customs and Border Protection Agents stop and seize bundles of drugs hidden in cars and trucks attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico.
From July 2016 through July 2017 CBP and BP agents seized nearly five thousand pounds of heroin and almost 1,400 pounds of fentanyl.
The numbers were provided in CBP’s Border Security Report for FY17. It was the first time specific numbers for fentanyl were included.
It is an indication of the evolving demand for drugs in America. The shift has prompted agencies to change how they protect agents from accidental exposure to powerful drugs.
Chris Sullivan, a Border Patrol agent and E.M.T., says Border Patrol checkpoints like the one along Interstate 19 near Tubac have Narcan kits.
Narcan is a drug used to counteract an opioid overdose. The kits are kept in plastic wrapping and work similar to nasal spray.
“We would use this if agents are exposed to various opioids in the course of performing their duties. If we encounter someone who may be experiencing an overdose from an opioid we can administer it,” Sullivan said.
Someone who receives Narcan would be transported to a hospital for further care, he said.
Sullivan says the kits were deployed to Border Patrol Stations last year. Agents keep the kits in fixed stations because they must be stored at a constant temperature and administered by specially-trained people.
Sullivan says agents searching for drugs have grown increasingly concerned they might accidentally be exposed to powerful opioids, like fentanyl, while they’re searching through tight spaces in cars for hidden drugs.
“Their intention is to smuggle the drugs they're not really concerned for safety, but that's something we have to be concerned with,” Sullivan said.
“This gives some sort of relief to agents doing their jobs but ultimately we understand that our job is dangerous we took an oath to protect this nation and we're going to continue to do our job even if it is dangerous.”