Portland Task Force’s Seizures of Fentanyl in 2024 Already Surpass Last Year’s Total

There’s also a “noticeable influx of cocaine” into the Portland metro area, cops note.

People smoking fentanyl in downtown Portland. (Blake Benard)

A narcotics task force headed by the Portland Police Bureau has already seized more fentanyl this year than it had in all of 2023, according to new numbers included in a presentation to be presented at a briefing before county commissioners tomorrow.

According to the presentation, the task force as of March 27 had seized 22.7 pounds of fentanyl and over 266,000 pills so far this year. That’s an increase from 17 pounds and 161,000 pills last year. The Police Bureau leads the “interdiction taskforce,” with help from the Oregon State Police, the National Guard, Homeland Security and other agencies.

The city, county and state are two-thirds of the way through the 90-day “fentanyl state of emergency” declared in January, and law enforcement has beefed up busts. State police are now assisting the PPB bike squad with downtown patrols, and investigators have been working their way up the chain to midlevel dealers operating suburban stash houses.

That crackdown was well underway before lawmakers reversed much of Measure 110, which had decriminalized possession of hard drugs in Oregon. Gov. Tina Kotek signed that reversal into law today.

The presentation also notes that social media and “encrypted phone apps” have joined traditional street-level drug deals as preferred methods of distribution, and that the anonymous nature of social media has presented new challenges for investigators. It’s now the “most common practice for juveniles to obtain drugs,” it says.

The presentation also notes other trends, beyond the rise in fentanyl. Pills are out, powder is in. And some familiar names are making a comeback. There’s been a “noticeable influx of cocaine” into the Portland metro area, the presentation notes, as well as an increase in “club drugs” like ketamine and MDMA.

“PPB remains committed and grateful to our partners on the [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas] Interdiction Taskforce, who work in a coordinated multi-agency approach to reduce the flow of fentanyl into Portland. We understand the gravity and toll fentanyl is having on the community and continue our efforts in both street-level drug missions as well as these large-scale drug trafficking investigations,” the bureau said in a statement.

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