Pa. state police seize $72 million in illegal drugs in 2021




  • In US
  • 2022-01-17 19:03:00Z
  • By Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

Jan. 17-Cocaine's comeback took a big leap in 2021, with Pennsylvania State Police confiscating nearly 1,000 pounds of the illegal drug.

The 986 pounds seized by troopers last year, valued at $21.7 million, was more than the combined amount in 2020 (300 pounds) and 2019 (425 pounds.)

In all state police in 2021 seized $72 million worth of illegal drugs, which represented a 67% increase compared to 2019, according to an annual report.

At least two of those 2021 cocaine busts happened in Westmoreland County.

In June, troopers arrested two people after watching a woman put a suitcase into the trunk of a car that left a New Stanton hotel parking lot. During a search of the suitcase, police confiscated 6.6 pounds of cocaine, according to court papers.

Three months later, troopers reported finding another 6.6 pounds of cocaine hidden in a compartment in a vehicle they pulled over on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Mt. Pleasant Township.

The number of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine have increased nationally during recent years, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.Overdose deaths involving cocaine have increased each year since 2013, the DEA reported in its 2020 Drug Threat Assessment. Officials suspect fentanyl may be mixed in with the cocaine.

Since its heyday in popularity in the 1980s, cocaine in recent years has been readily available in the United States, the DEA reported. The agency reported in 2018 that the production of coca - the plant from which cocaine is derived - reached an all-time high in Colombia.

Nationwide, there were just under 4,200 overdose deaths from cocaine in 2010. By 2018, that figure had grown to nearly 15,000. Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the country, with 1,045 deaths, according to the DEA. That was behind only New York (1,276), Florida (1,221) and Ohio (1,105).

There were 167 drug combination deaths involving cocaine across the country in 2010. Eight years later, that figure was nearly 8,700 - or a more than 5,000% increase, the DEA reported.

The most common fatal combination was cocaine and fentanyl, Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 5- times more potent than heroin.

The 2021 total for fentanyl seized in Pennsylvania was nearly three times higher than the previous two years combined, with 552 pounds valued at $8.8 million compared to 78 pounds in 2020 and 121 pounds in 2019, according to state police statistics. Fentanyl has fueled an explosion of drug overdose deaths in the region for several years.

In 2021, state police also seized 56 pounds of heroin valued at $1.9 million, 5,000 pounds of processed marijuana valued at 14.9 million, 734 pounds of methamphetamines valued at $7.3 million, 247,000 pills valued at $6.2 million and $9.6 million in cash, according to the report.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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