U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday that Operation Crystal Shield had yielded over 1,800 arrests and seized over 28,000 lbs of methamphetamine in just over 18 months since the operation began.
“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,” AG Barr told reporters in a press conference in Arizona.
These numbers are above and beyond the normal every day seizures and arrests that law enforcement agencies make in the ongoing efforts to take methamphetamine and other drugs off the streets throughout the United States.
AG Barr said, “With Crystal Shield, nationwide so far, there have been 1,800 arrests, 28,500 pounds of meth seized, that’s the equivalent of 65 million doses, and $43 million seized. Here in Arizona, there have been 3,900 pounds of methamphetamine seized, which is 8.8 million doses.”
“Now, it’s important to understand that the results of Crystal Shield are over and above, and augment, what I call the ‘baseline enforcement effort’ that’s directed against methamphetamine by the DEA. So, for example, in 2019, the overall effort against methamphetamine by the DEA had resulted in 100,000 pounds of methamphetamine seized and 11,000 defendants charged.” Barr said.
“What’s different about Crystal Shield is that it is over and above that, and is also targeting, specifically, the large hubs — city hubs — that are the core of the distribution in the United States. It’s designed to seize it and dismantle the organizations that are involved in its distribution before it gets into packages and is distributed.”
In February of 2019, the DEA launched Crystal Shield, an operation to target the transportation and distribution network of methamphetamine here in the United States.
The use of encryption on communication apps like WhatsApp, Signal and others that are used by criminal groups, especially the cartels have made it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to monitor communications of these groups until recently.
“When I took office in February of 2019, I quickly saw that, while the opioid crisis was in fact something we had to tackle hard, in many parts of the country, the primary danger was methamphetamine. Some states have a very low opioid problem and a very high methamphetamine problem and we started trying to deal more aggressively with the growing problem of methamphetamine.” AG Barr told reporters.
“Meth is a very dangerous and deadly drug that ravages the body. I think we’ve all seen the before-and-after shots: teeth fall out; scabs on the face that the addicted person picks at; they look like walking zombies. It destroys the health of the addicted person and it severely alters the mind. It is destroying the ability of people to control their impulses. It propels anger, rage, and aggression. It leads, frequently, to violence. Study after study shows that it closely correlates to violence and is involved in a lot of domestic violence, as well as homicides. Unlike opioids, we don’t have something to counteract it, therapeutically. There is no Narcan for methamphetamine.”
Barr said the violence from methamphetamines arises in two principal ways. One way is the users themselves wind up in a state of psychosis and become out of control, attacking police, relatives, friends or innocent bystanders. He described an unfortunate instance there in Arizona where a police officer was killed by someone on methamphetamine.
Barr said the violence displayed from methamphetamine also arises from the groups that are involved in its distribution in the United States.
“Previously, methamphetamine was largely made in the United States. It was cooked domestically, on a small scale,” he said. “Now it is manufactured on an industrial scale by the two major cartels in Mexico: Sinoloa and CJNG. It comes across the border via a distribution network where it goes initially to multiple large cities in the United States, fewer than 12, and from there, it’s broken down and distributed throughout the country.”
“The Mexican meth is very pure and potent compared to the previous production from the United States, and it’s extremely cheap, which has allowed it to take hold.”
Methamphetamine is also deadly, in terms of overdoses. In 2018, AG Barr said there were approximately 12,000 overdoses with psychostimulants, like methamphetamine. In 2019, that number increased to 16,000, a 25 percent rise.
AG Barr predicted that we are likely to see a significant increase this year. Arizona has seen a 17 percent increase in methamphetamine overdoses, with over 2,000 deaths in 2019, he said.