Law enforcement officials say they have taken down a dangerous drug ring in eastern San Bernardino County, arresting 20 people believed to be trafficking in Mexican “tar” heroin.
Authorities from the Redlands Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced yesterday that they have been working for 10 months to catch these people -- ever since they realized local drug users were overdosing on the high-quality tar.
“The investigation was launched in June 2011 after Redlands police noted a growing number of heroin-related arrests and overdoses in 2010 and early 2011,” Redlands police said in a statement. “Since August 2010, 11 residents of Redlands and the surrounding communities between the ages of 18 and 26 have died as a result of heroin overdose.”
As a result of those deaths, officials formed the Street Enforcement Team, a joint task force, which discovered that the drug ring was “dealing more than half a kilo a week of Mexican ‘tar’ heroin in the East Valley portions of San Bernardino County, including Redlands, Yucaipa, and Highland,” according to the DEA.
Authorities held a joint press conference Tuesday on the steps of Redlands City Hall to announce the arrests, displaying photos of the evidence -- money, drugs and paraphernalia -- and a placard showing names and photos of the 20 arrestees.
The suspects are each being charged with possession of heroin and conspiring to distribute heroin, and could face 40 years to life in prison if convicted.
A Press-Enterprise reporter talked with a mother whose 24-year-old daughter Rikki died of a heroin overdose in 2010, and who was present for the press conference. “Parents need to wake up,” she told the Press-Enterprise. “This is a mom’s club you never want to be in.”