Editorial: I-81, the heroin highway

Late April seems to be spring cleaning time for area law enforcement. Operation Valley Venue III this year produced 73 charges, a number of arrests, and poked a tiny hole in the local illegal drug trade/use with seizures of $6,700 in illegal drugs, half of which was heroin.

Obviously, the problem with heroin in our area is not going away. Arrests, overdoses and deaths continue to occur from heroin that’s flowing into the Northern Shenandoah Valley from Baltimore via interstates and state highways. It’s so bad, in fact, that Interstate 81 has acquired a nickname.

An FBI special agent in Martinsburg, West Virginia, this week called Interstate 81 the “heroin highway.”

“There’s no doubt that Interstate 81 from Chambersburg to Winchester is the heroin highway. But even communities not directly on this route are also having similar problems,” FBI Special Agent Jeff Cisar is quoted in a story in The Journal, a Martinsburg newspaper, about a drug prevention meeting held Monday at the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department in Martinsburg.

Berkeley County, located just north of Frederick County, last year was named one of the nation’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Efforts to join that federal program are underway here, and such a designation would mean more federal assistance and funding for the local battle against drug trafficking.

There were 33 deaths last year in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. We’ve seen nine opiate-based drug-related deaths so far this year — almost the same pace as last year at this time. What a horrible statistic to have to watch grow. Our community is battling this threat, and we need to continue fighting, no matter how overwhelming it is.