Attorney General William Barr on Thursday announced that the federal government aimed to block the distribution of methamphetamine amid rising overdose deaths, saying they had made over 1,800 arrests and seized more than 28,500 pounds of the drug—or 65 million doses—in the first six months since its launch.
Barr said since the launch of Operation Crystal Shield in February, the project resulted in more than 750 investigations that led to 1,840 arrests, and the seizures of more than 28,560 pounds of methamphetamine, 284 firearms, and $43.3 million in drug proceeds.
He gave an update on the operation during a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, along with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Tim Shea, and other law enforcement officials.
Operation Crystal Shield was launched in response to the surging trafficking of methamphetamine. It targets nine major methamphetamine transportation hubs—Atlanta, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Diego, and St. Louis. Officials said the nine cities are responsible for more than 75 percent of the methamphetamine seized by DEA in 2019.
The operation also aims to disrupt the major trafficking networks established by Mexican cartels that are responsible for the majority of drug trafficking in and within the United States.
Between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, DEA seizures of the drug in the United States increased by 127 percent, from 49,507 pounds to 112,146 pounds. The number of DEA arrests related to methamphetamine rose nearly 20 percent, the DEA said.
The attorney general said methamphetamine had become a national problem in recent years, contributing to violence and violent crimes across U.S. communities as well as an increase of fatal overdoses from the drug.
He said that in 2018 there were about 12,000 overdoses with psychostimulants like methamphetamine. This number went up by 25 percent in 2019, to 16,000, and is expected to increase this year.
“The trafficking of methamphetamine poses a major danger to our communities. And the federal government is determined to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy the violent drug trafficking organizations that place profits over human lives,” he said.
Most of the violence was being perpetrated by the users themselves or by street gangs in major cities that are responsible for distributing the drug after its production in Mexico, Barr said.
Federal officials said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic has had hampered the progress of the operation, especially its operations in Mexico.
“We are confident that as COVID abates, we’re going to get back on track with Mexico and have a much stronger operation down there,” Barr said.