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Fentanyl seizures, reported overdoses skyrocket in Jamestown

In 2023, nearly 9,400 grams of fentanyl were seized by Jamestown police through routine patrols and targeted enforcement by the city’s drug task force. Pictured are items, including fentanyl, that were collected during a raid last November.

JAMESTOWN — More fentanyl was seized in the city of Jamestown in 2023 than the five preceding years combined.

The staggering spike, in addition to reported drug overdoses, further confirms the increased presence of the synthetic opioid and efforts by the Jamestown Police Department to rid it of city streets.

Last year, nearly 9,400 grams of fentanyl were seized by police through routine patrols and targeted enforcement by the city’s drug task force. The haul was nearly double the 5,552 grams seized by JPD in 2022.

What’s more, the total weight in 2023 was still 2,500 grams more than all fentanyl collected by police from 2018 to 2022.

Information on the fentanyl cache is included in the city’s annual Public Safety Report released this week. Also of note was the amount of cocaine seized last year, 2,144 grams, double the amount collected the year prior.

Cocaine seizures by weight have significantly dropped from the more than 4,200 grams collected in 2018. Only 594 grams were seized in 2020, a year that did see a noticeable jump in fentanyl use and — even more sharply — reported drug overdoses within the city of Jamestown.

Last year’s spike with fentanyl shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Last October, Steve Kilburn with the county Mental Hygiene Department and Steven Cobb with the Mental Health Association updated members of the county Health Board on what they described as a worrying jump in confirmed drug overdose deaths. At that meeting, Kilburn noted there were more than 40 overdose deaths in 2021 and 35 deaths in 2022.

A county spokesman on Thursday said there were 55 overdose deaths in 2023, with five to seven cases still pending.

As previously reported, Kilburn noted there were five drug overdose deaths in a four-day span between the end of September and the beginning of October that were not included in his statistics. Some of the toxicology reports had not yet been completed, but Kilburn said fentanyl was the likely culprit.

“Over half of the deaths this year have occurred within one day of another death,” he said last fall. “When we see the deaths we almost always are looking at fentanyl poisoning. I think often, and maybe nearly always, it’s simply a matter of supply.”

The city’s 2023 Public Safety Report states there were 35 drug overdose deaths last year, nine more than in 2022. Only two such deaths were recorded in 2018, with a surge of 34 in 2021.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. Fentanyl comes in two forms: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally made fentanyl.

On the illegal side, the CDC said fentanyl is often added to other drugs because of its extreme potency, which makes drugs cheaper, more addictive and more dangerous.

About a week before the county Health Board meeting last October, nearly 120 grams of fentanyl were seized inside a King Street home in Jamestown. A city resident, reportedly on parole when officers visited his residence, was charged with felony drug possession charges.

Raids on Myers, Park and Van Buren streets, among others, also netted fentanyl last year.

In 2023, officers with the Jamestown Police Department responded to 251 overdose incidents, a jump of more than 50 incidents from the year prior.

From 2016 to 2019, officers responded to 177 total overdoses. In 2020 alone, there were 175 incidents.

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