Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

George Pyle: Utah cops conduct a sadly honest drug bust

By George Pyle

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Aug 22 2014 04:44 pm • Last Updated Aug 22 2014 06:33 pm

"You ask any D.E.A. man, he’ll say, ‘There’s nothin’ we can do’ ..." — Glenn Frey, "Smuggler’s Blues"

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Google and YouTube have both failed me, so we’ll be relying here on my rapidly fragmenting memory.

But I have a pretty clear image of a scene from the gritty 1980s cop show "Hill Street Blues," where some high city poobahs were striding through the dark halls of Frank Furillo’s rustbelt police station, on their way to bask in the glory of a big drug bust.

As they walked, the big wigs were trying to figure out just what the street value of the seized substance was. Their estimate got bigger practically with every step, until they stood before the TV cameras with a very large, and totally imaginary, monetary value for their bust.

All the street cops could do was roll their eyes and hold their tongues.

Contrast that fictional, in more ways than one, presentation with the real news event staged Thursday right here in Salt Lake City.

Folks from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the brass from more Salt Lake area police departments than most of us knew existed gathered at the local DEA office to announce that they had made a major dent in the local workings of a Mexico-based drug cartel that supplied heroin to users in these parts.

As befits a more media-savvy age, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank didn’t just make up some numbers on the fly. He had someone prepare a chart that showed the amount of the drug seized, along with 21 arrests, added up to 31 pounds, or about 138,000 hits.

That’s about 25 years worth of street-level busts, officials said, or the loss of maybe $2.6 million in profits for the distributors.


story continues below
story continues below

Absent from the media availability was any hint, spoken or on a banner, of a sense of "Mission Accomplished." These folks are, admirably, both smarter and more honest than that.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the heroin trade in Utah is still, "active and robust," if for no other reason than illegal heroin is cheaper and easier to get than the other big narcotic killer — prescription opiates.

Officials even admitted that the short-term effect of their busts would be to shrink the supply and thus — by laws of economics that are beyond the reach of any cop, lawyer or legislator — boost the price of heroin on the street.

While that might cause some users to go home and rethink their lives, others will just have to work harder — i.e., steal more — to afford their fixes.

"That is the risk that we run," Burbank said.

Nobody in the room claimed that this bust, or the next one, or the next one, would solve the problem. Each one is kind of like those claims that a U.S. drone strike had killed the number two man in al Qaida, conjuring up an image of the terrorist version of a corporate organizational chart with about 500 boxes labeled "Number 2."

The only way out of this swamp, as Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said, is a much more health-based approach that, while doing what one can to reduce supply, takes the only effective step, which is to reduce demand.

That will require more treatment options, in prison and out, special courts that focus on helping drug users of all kinds kick the habit, as well as better monitoring of the over-prescription of the legal opioids that cause so much suffering and death.

Gill is a Democrat. Utah is ruled by Republicans. But Republicans are supposed to be the ones who understand the free market.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.