DENVER (KDVR) — As the investigation continues into the five overdose deaths in Commerce City, authorities are concerned about a deadly mix of fentanyl-laced cocaine circulating in the community. Police are trying to learn if anyone else might have some of the lethal stash.
Oftentimes, experts say, these types of investigations are extremely difficult.
“People who are dealing drugs, especially fentanyl, probably don’t keep the most accurate records,” Metropolitan State University of Denver criminal justice professor Stacey Hervey said.
Hervey said officers will try to get witnesses to talk or perpetrators to flip. If that fails, police could try to dig into a digital trail.
“If you can’t get passwords to phones, you might not be able to get that information,” she said.
Search warrants can also be tricky depending on certain social media companies, she explained.
“Some [social media companies] are more friendly to law enforcement search warrants than others,” Hervey said.
Michael Allen, the district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, said undercover work is happening all the time.
“It’s difficult to infiltrate a group like that and to get useful information,” Allen explained.
But Allen said something needs to be done. Statistics from Colorado medical examiners’ offices show fentanyl is killing more and more people. In El Paso County, from 2020 to 2021, fentanyl overdose death rates have roughly doubled, Allen said.
“If it’s doubling year over year, that tells you this is a significant problem,” he said.
Allen wants lawmakers to reconsider a law that went into effect in 2019. The law made possession of fentanyl a misdemeanor. He said that change allows offenders off too easily and doesn’t effectively incentivize them to agree to rehabilitation. Allen also said Colorado should get on board with mandatory prison sentences for anyone who distributes fentanyl resulting in overdose death.
“It’s somewhat like playing Russian roulette,” Allen said while describing the dangerous drug.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is much stronger than heroin and should be a top concern throughout society, Allen stressed.
Another issue police face is just how much fentanyl is on the streets. Experts warn it is easy enough to get fentanyl by simply walking through Downtown Denver without having a go-to drug dealer.