State, local law enforcement report massive increase in fentanyl seizures

NE Wisconsin is flooded with drugs
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 1:56 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 2:43 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The Attorney General is in Oshkosh later Thursday afternoon to address what authorities are calling the biggest drug threat to the Fox Valley.

Attorney General Josh Kaul and local law enforcement leaders will discuss a massive increase in fentanyl seizures in 2022 compared to the previous year. The LWAM (Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group – Drug Unit) enforcement group reports a 4,400 percent spike between years.

”In 2022 LWAM saw more than a 4,000% increase in drug seizures compared containing fentanyl as compared to 2021. I want to say that number again 4,000% increase,” Attorney General Kaul stated.

The surprisingly high number happened in the enforcement group’s area it covers, which includes Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond Du Lac, and Calumet Counties.

Project Director for LWAM Jeremiah Winscher said at the forefront of the increasingly alarming trend in the Fox Valley is the emergence of counterfeit prescription pills that contain fentanyl.

He said oftentimes, these counterfeit prescription pills can look like oxycodone, or any other type of prescription varying in shape, size, and color.

”According to data that we’ve reviewed from the Drug Enforcement Administration, approximately 60% or six out of 10 of these prescription pills that contain fentanyl contain a lethal dose, making each pill a gamble,” explained Jeremiah Winscher.

Attorney General Kaul said he is working with the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and together asked the state legislature to include funding for an additional 19 special agents in the biennial budget. This would help combat the national spike in homicide and overdose deaths.

The group’s special agent in charge, the Oshkosh Police Chief, and the Winnebago County District Attorney all joined the attorney general at Thursday’s news conference.

The news conference was streamed live at 2:30 p.m. on March 23.

As a synthetic opioid originally designed to aid in pain management, fentanyl is a powerfully addictive opioid approximately 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl can be lethal in very small doses. A dose of approximately 2mg can be fatal, which is the size of only a few grains of sand. Fentanyl can come in many different forms, including powdered, mixed with other drugs or as counterfeit prescription pills of varying shapes, sizes, and colors.

“Fentanyl is an extraordinarily dangerous drug that has caused a large number of overdose deaths,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “Thank you to the team at LWAM that’s working to combat this dangerous drug and reduce the harm caused by illegal drugs in the Fox Valley.”

According to a statement from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, during the 2022 calendar year, LWAM seized approximately 6,300 grams of illicit controlled substances containing fentanyl.

This amount of fentanyl marks approximately 4,400 percent more fentanyl seized than that of the 2021 calendar year. While this figure may be largely attributed to the December 2022 seizure of approximately 12 pounds of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl, the largest individual fentanyl seizure in LWAM history; even without that seizure, LWAM seized approximately 560 percent more fentanyl in 2022 than 2021.

“Drug dealers are preying on our citizens and our citizens are dying. We must go after the drug dealers and ensure that all four counties are not desirable places to sell drugs. We have to stop this,” said Dean Smith, Chief of the Oshkosh Police Department.