JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Drug Enforcement Agency’s top cop who oversees all operations in both the U.S. and abroad was in Jacksonville on Wednesday to meet with Sheriff Mike Williams.
Timothy Shea, the acting DEA administrator, told News4Jax that while he came here to meet Williams, the visit was more about how the DEA could help the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office deal with violent crimes that are linked to drug trafficking.
“What fuels the violence in cities like Jacksonville and throughout the country is drug trafficking organizations,” Shea said.
He was referring to the Cartel Jalisco of Guadalajara Mexico. The cartel is commonly known and CJNG, which stands for Cartel Jalisco New Generation.
“It’s a very violent organization and a worldwide organization that’s growing, and it’s one that ships meth directly into North Florida, primarily through Atlanta,” Shea said.
Atlanta is one of several major U.S. cities identified by the DEA as a regional drug distribution hub. According to the DEA, CJNG has operatives in Atlanta that are responsible for the distribution of meth into the southeastern region of the U.S., which includes North Florida.
“They use people here in the U.S. to distribute which are usually violent street gangs,” Shea said.
And that’s where Jacksonville comes into the discussion. Shea said many of the violent crimes in Jacksonville are either directly or indirectly linked to the sale and distribution of meth that is smuggled into the U.S. by CJNG members. He also told News4Jax that his office in Washington D.C. has Jacksonville’s drug-related gun violence on its radar as well as the violence in other cities linked to drug trafficking.
“We’ve seen an uptick in violent crimes in the last six months, and a lot of it is related to drug trafficking -- here even more so,” Shea said.
Speaking on specific types of violence in Jacksonville and across the U.S., “We see an increase in the murder rate and an increase in the aggravated assault rate in cities that are beset by a drug problem,” Shea said.
Recently, the DEA began a six month operation called “Operation Crystal Shield,” which targeted the smuggling and distribution of meth into America. Agents went after CJNG members operating in both the U.S. and in Mexico. Shea said the operation was a success.
“Throughout the country and nine cities with distribution hubs, we were able to seize more than 28,000 pounds of meth. We made 1,800 arrests. Seized 43-million dollars in cash from the drug cartels and 284 guns were seized.” Shea said.
The seizure of large quantities of meth, money and firearms and the arrest of hundreds of suspects is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to the war on illegal narcotics, but there is still much more to accomplish.
While Shea was in Jacksonville, he also addressed the addiction.
“Seventy-one thousand people a year in the U.S. die from drug overdose, and here in Jacksonville, we recently prosecuted two drug dealers that were dealing drugs to someone who overdosed, and they were charged with distributing narcotics that resulted in death. We consider that a violent crime, and we will go after the drug dealers here and everywhere in the country that distribute drugs and cause people to overdose and die,” Shea said.
While Shea currently oversees 239 DEA offices in the U.S. and 91 foreign offices in 68 countries, he made it known that the Jacksonville DEA office will work hand-in-hand with JSO and the surrounding jurisdictions to try and halt the influx of meth that continues to ruin lives.