State and Federal law enforcement arrested 50 people in Connecticut on Friday as part of a massive undercover operation that resulted in the seizure of thousands of bags of heroin, guns and $15,000 in cash.
Police in Waterbury say the arrests were part of an investigation called "Operation Raw Deal" that began in September "in response to an increase in heroin overdoses and heroin-related deaths in the city."
According to Fox 61, detectives issued 92 warrants for the 52 suspects, with charges ranging from the sale of narcotics, conspiracy at the sale of narcotics, firearm violations and possession in a school zone. Thirteen police teams carried out those warrants in a series of raids across the quiet Connecticut town.
The arrest phase of “Operation: Raw Deal” consisted of 135 detectives, officers, agents and investigators, from the VICE and Intelligence Division, Criminal Investigation Bureau (CID), Gang Task Force (GTF), Street Crime Unit (SCU), Emergency Response Team (ERT), Patrol Division, forensic technicians and investigators from other local and federal law enforcement agencies.
Forty-one suspects from the original list of 52 were arrested for various drug-related offenses, while nine people were arrested for various drug-related offenses and other crimes.
Detectives seized 8 ounces of raw heroin, thousands of bags of heroin packaged for sale, $15,000 in cash, two cars, two handguns, bullets and a rifle.
Waterbury police say most of those arrested in the monthlong operation were mid-level heroin dealers.
Lt. David Silverio says this operation was about saving lives, not just making arrests.
"You have the people that have a medical need and may need treatment and then we have traffickers and suppliers. This kind of operation is targeting the trafficker side of the narcotics problem," Lt. Silverio of the Waterbury Police Department told Fox 61.
"As of May 4, there’s been 24 deaths in Waterbury this year alone and 99 overdoses. This year, the numbers hopefully will get better, but we have a problem right here in this city," added Lt. Silverio.
In a nationwide study by the CDC, overdose deaths in 2017 are nearly four times as frequent as they were in 1999. Heroin overdoses have remained stagnant, as other forms of opioid use have increased dramatically.
Fox 61 says there are still 11 people on the run from the operation. The Waterbury Police says if you recognize one of the suspects, do not approach them and contact police immediately.