Fentanyl remains top concern on Olympic Peninsula

Clallam County leads state in per capita overdoses, driven by fentanyl

PORT ANGELES — Fentanyl remains the most prevalent drug law enforcement deals with in Clallam County, according to Detective Cody Anderson with the Sheriff’s Office, with the drug even finding its way into other narcotics.

Speaking to a meeting of the Port Angeles Nor’Wester Rotary Club on Friday morning, Anderson, a detective with the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, or OPNET, said Clallam County leads the state in the number of per capita overdoses, driven by fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is the top one, it’s what we see everywhere,” Anderson said. “It is in everything. Even our methamphetamine has fentanyl in it.”

In 2022 OPNET, which operates in both Clallam and Jefferson counties, seized more than 17,000 fentanyl pills and over 300 grams of fentanyl powder with a combined worth of more than $90,000.

OPNET works with a number of other agencies, both local and federal, and has traced networks back to cartels in Mexico, Anderson said.

The main way OPNET gathers information is through the use of confidential informants, typically those who have been arrested on lower-level drug charges and agree to work with law enforcement in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Anderson said OPNET also works with local recovery agencies to try and get people treatment once they’ve been arrested.

In addition to fentanyl, OPNET in 2022 seized more than 277 grams of heroin worth $11,000; 5,976 grams of methamphetamine worth $119,000; 22 grams of cocaine worth $900 and 219 pounds and more than 7,900 live plants of marijuana worth more than $8 million.

Despite marijuana being legal in the state of Washington, several criminal organizations started illegal growing operations locally, with the product being sent back East, Anderson said.

In addition to the drugs seized by OPNET, several homes that were being used for grow operations were also seized. Anderson said at one point there were 14 homes around Port Angeles being used for illegal marijuana growing operations.

Funds from the sale of one of those homes is going toward the purchase of an armored vehicle for the county, Anderson said. Anderson couldn’t say how much the vehicle would cost, but Undersheriff Ron Cameron noted they can cost up to $400,000.

“Unfortunately we’ve been seeing a lot of standoffs recently,” Anderson said. “We’ve been using Jefferson County or (State Patrol) SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics). They take a long time to get here, so having one of our own is going to be game changing.”

OPNET is also seeing a lot of narcotics being shipped through the mail, Anderson said, and works with a postal inspection officer based in Kitsap County.

“A lot of the drugs these days are sent through the mail, especially with the Department of Corrections, the prisons,” Anderson said.

“Right now they are flooded with contraband being mailed into the prisons, there’s a lot of controlled substances that are being mailed in.”

The 2021 state Supreme Court ruling Washington v. Blake — which decriminalized the simple possession of narcotics — has made it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to prosecute drug crimes, Anderson said.

“Unfortunately we’ve got to have leverage over people to force them to go (to treatment),” Anderson said. “Now with the Blake decision they’ve removed that, we’re not able to have that leverage with a lot of people.”

Still, despite the challenges, Anderson said he believed OPNET has been effective in its work.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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